A "Dutch Dwarf to take on World of Warcraft" was the general gest of a newpaper article earlier this month in the Belgian newspaper 'de Standaard ', which applied to the newly released Chronicles of Spellborn, released by Dutch game producer Spellborn N.V.Such a claim gives rise to big expectations as the market for quality MMORPG's is getting very crowded with excellent games and you need tons of investors to get into serious competition, and Spellborn N.V. isn't a big-buck-backed company. Yes, they have had several investment rounds, but since Spellborn is their only title this is a make or break game.
Spellborn N.V. is a rather small company, based in the Hague, Netherlands and has put together a team of 40 people to work on the Chronicles of Spellborn. The game has been highly anticipated, for instance by Massively who wrote in may this year:
The team at Spellborn NV continues to entice with its latest screenshots from its closed beta for The Chronicles of Spellborn. These depict various cities and other places on the Shards of Parliament and Quarterstone, as well as some of the creatures who will be more than glad to help you test your skill at bleeding. After looking at the new screenshots, forum regulars wondered if the landscapes are too empty and flat when compared to World of Warcraft's lush richness.
Spellborn NV recently showed the game at the RPC Münster role-playing convention, where players reportedly loved the character creation system and combat systems best. Similarly to NCSoft's City of Heroes, the gear and outfits worn by Spellborn characters don't affect the gameplay -- you can look however you wish and still fight at your best. The Spellborn combat system is similar to first person shooters and Age of Conan in that you don't target anything specifically; if something is in range of your attacks, it will be hit. It also is uniquely based on a grid on which you arrange your possible attacks that moves to allow you to use different sets of all your abilities as the fight moves on, adding a "deck building" element to battle.
According to Dutch gamers magazine Inside Gamer, the Chronicles of Spellborn, or TCOS in short is a highly original game with unique graphics. The graphics are drawn in quite a darkish style, but above all it is an MMORPG with a good story.Here are some screenshots of the The Chronicles Of Spellborn, more can be found on the TCOS site here.
Dutch band Within Temptation, a gothic metalband, has written exclusive tracks for the game. The sounds of which naturally blend in with the mood of the game, although not everyone will be a fan of this type of music. The word goes that most programmers liked to listen to the music of Within Temptation while working on the game. Barry Hoffman, Spellborn's marketing manager said:
"Their music has given a whole new dimension to our fantasy world. When we received the opportunity to work together, we got very excited. Gamers very often listen to music while gaming and it was an easy choice for us to work with a band that can give such a good mood to the game."
The affection was mutual, as Within Temptation's guitarist Robert Westerholt said:
"Actually, almost all Within Temptation members are fanatic gamers. Both at home and when touring we play fantasy oriented games to relax and get new inspiration. when we heard about Spellborn and that it was a Dutch company we were very thrilled to work together to write tracks especially for this game. The partnership will go beyond writing tracks, but we'll let you know about that later."
Spellborn sure is about to stand out in the crowd, it's graphics make it an original as well as the cooperation with Within Temptation, as it is the first time that a game has worked dedicated with a popular rockband to create the tracks for the game. The fact that it is an original may be the key to their success; It's different and cool and it becomes a smash hit, or it's too different from mainstream MMORPG and it will become a proud, but niche player on the market.
Through email I received a christmas teaser from Twinity
Also in the World of Entropia things are getting dressed up for christmas. In the Entropia Forum (clothing section) I found a number of christmas pants, jackets and hats.
No doubt christmas will be celebrated in more worlds. Please send your images to veejay [at] mindblizzard [dot] com to have your christmas posted here and a link to your site.
I ran into quote a number of new (or rather new) online games this week and must admit my bandwidth has been tested a number of times yesterday in downloading several clients. Of the dozens of trials I ran, there's one particular game I’d like to highlight: Crowns of Power by Rampid Interactive.
When I first read this title, my mind wandered of to some of the great games of the past, such as Lords of the Realm, a great medieval strategy game. That would mean it would fit past weeks ranting on virtual history perfectly, but it turned out Crowns of Power isn’t a historic online game, but a fantasy game.
The tease was good enough though to give this game a shot. With all the fantasy games coming online day after day you might start to wonder if they’re serving us out of the box games but Crowns of Power has gone through a thorough development cycle. Early 2008 they finally went into public beta which closed august 2008.
8/17/2008 - Beta Has Officially Ended.
After a long successful open beta test, we are packaging the game for its first live release. Thank you to everyone who participated and helped out in Beta. As a reminder, all beta characters have been wiped. We will be awarding special prizes to active beta testers at the start of the live game. Check back soon for news on when we go live with our first real game world, Synge
We look forward to seeing you in game!
Then you meet the storyteller who introduces you to the world of the game. This world is ruled by magic, which is divided into 5 colors or classes of mana/magic - green (nature), red (fire), blue (mind), white (healing, protection), black (death).
You wake up on a forest floor, naked and cold with very few possessions, if any. You are uncertain how long you were asleep. In fact, you aren’t certain who you are, where you came from or of anything for that matter.
Time passes. You’re cold and think that your safety might be jeopardized if you remain where you are. So you start to walk. It doesn’t take long before you find a group of humans, like yourself. You are relieved. You beg them to tell you what has occurred. Where are you? Who are you? Why are you without possessions?
They urge you not to worry. You are in a state that everyone experienced at what they call… Restoration. The memory loss, the uncertainty, everything is normal. You start to calm, thankful for companionship during this strange state of mind.
Although Arden is also reminiscent of David Farland’s Runelord series in which the world is called Arden, it also sparks memories of Roger Zelazny’s epic “Amber” series in which Amber is the one true world, and has thousands of spin offs.
“To answer your question, you are on a planet called Arder, a planet fortunate enough to be located in the absolute center of the universe,” he begins. “Because of this centrality, Arder is a place of infinite power, where magic is commonplace and extremely potent. You see, the entirety of the universe is divided into five regions. Each region is the creation of one of five Gods, and ruled by this specific God. The names of the Gods and their particular powers, I will come to in time. Because Arder is located in the exact center of everything, all five of the God’s have an affinity for our planet.
That’s how it’s described in the “getting started”. As guilds develop isn’t a USP, the thing which attracts me is the smaller world populations. This is also emphasized by the description of the game objectives (also in the FAQ section);
In Crowns of Power, players will have the power to govern themselves in a volatile world where PvP (Player vs Player) combat can be engaged in nearly everywhere you go. With smaller world populations, there will be a sense of community unlike any other game on the market. Players will earn their reputation and role on the server, and be held accountable for their actions. Death will come with a steeper price, and make people think twice before committing acts against the community. As guilds develop, they'll be able to display their power by obtaining Guild Halls that they must maintain and protect, adding another social and contested element to the game.
This is the type of gameplay that brings back memories of Swirve’s Utopia online which I’ve played quite addictively for several years being an alliance diplomat, Battlefield General and King,. Rather than bashing computized beasts it is about interaction, diplomacy and tactics.
The objective of the game is to evolve your character through adventures and quests while obtaining rare and unique items, spells and powers. As you progress, your role in the social and community aspect of the game could take on important roles as people elect fellow players into positions of power. Diplomacy, public relations, and mutual interests of the community will play a huge part in the players experience in Crowns of Power, and provide other means of entertainment that go beyond killing computer controlled monsters and raid encounters. Guilds will also be able to strive towards and obtain guild halls where their guild can meet, train, and even store arsenals in times of war. Guild halls will be able to be attacked and contested by rivaling guilds.
The Virtual LHC was created by Second Front, with special credits to Man Michinaga for this specific story and build, which was primarily done for the GOGbot Steampunk Festival in Enschede, Netherlands.
Yesterday I had an extensive talk with Man Michinage to find out more on the build and the work theyre doing at Second Front.
The install was for the international RL media fest Gogbot (gogbot.nl) and the theme was steampunk. Therefore we had to come up with something, and the hadron collider was a current event. We work in context of the situation we are asked to perform in.
One cannot compare the works of Second Front to a normal theatre group of actors who perform their works over and over again. Every performance is a unique event and requires a unique setting.
None of our work lasts in SL, usually no more than a couple days and we usually only do performances once. This is very unusual. Most of our work is documented in print, video and painting, along with blog for RL audience. Also we create so much stuff we woudl need a lot of sim space.
Let's have a look at this particular build and the performance.
Fau Ferdinand created the first part of it, the torus and the landscape given that this woudl be a very bare stage from which we woudl create the story. I thought of Jules Verne, Goeorge Pal's The Time Machine, and I am currrently reading the Difference engine by Gison and Sterling. The script was improvisation, out of my head
The story as it played out was the actual activation of the Large Hadron Collider to find out about the origins of the Universe, the Metaverse in this case.
Its real life counterpart in Switzerland has been powered down for an unknown period due to some technical problems. This one actually passed the tests and ready to let some particle beams collide. Find out about the creation of the Universe or the existence of the Higgs particle.
Critics in the real world fear experimenting with the higgs-particle may be a bad idea, as it may create a black hole. Well, the test proves they're right.
Second Front was originally formed as a seven member group of artists from Canada, the US, UK and Italy who create performance based work in Second Life and other realities.is the pioneering performance art group in the online avatar-based VR world, Second Life. Founded in 2006, Second Front quickly grew to its current 8 member troupe that includes Lizsolo Mathilde, Man Michinaga, Bibbe Oh, Fau Ferdinand), Great Escape, Gazira Babeli and Tran Spire.
Taking their influences from numerous sources, including Dada, Fluxus, Futurist Syntesi, the Situationist International and contemporary performance artists like Laurie Anderson and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Second Front creates theatres of the absurd that challenge notions of virtual embodiment, online performance and the formation of virtual narrative. Created in 2006, they have already performed extensively, including in Vancouver, Chicago, New York, and has been featured in publications including SLate, Eikon, Realtime Arts (Australia), and the popular The Avastar magazine.
Most of the artists have real life experience in Performance Acting, but as a group they work primarily in Second Life, although they've done performances in other worlds.
We are primarily on SL, although we have used Opensim and World of Warcraft. I think the difference is whether we're installation artists, SL artists or conceptual artists who use SL. We love the SL community, but we're contemporary artists before SL.
What is so special about the Second Life community, how does it differ from the World of Warcraft community as an audience?
Different aims. Pretty basic, SL isn't so much a gaming community - it's much less homogenous. You have everyone from the evangelized to the casueal user whereas in Wow, everyone is there to play in the WoW universe.
Our Real Life audience is much more specific. Then we're really talking to the contemporary/performance art crowd. The SL crowd, many have no idea who Marina Abramovic or Guillermo Gomez-Pena is.
Me neither, so to exit this blogpost, a quick defintion of Performance Art.
Performance art is art in which the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work. It can happen anywhere, at any time, or for any length of time. Performance art can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body and a relationship between performer and audience. It is opposed to painting or sculpture, for example, where an object constitutes the work. Of course the lines are often blurred. For instance, the work of Survival Research Laboratories is considered by most to be "performance art", yet the performers are actually machines.
Sony Corp.'s twice delayed online "Home" virtual world for the PlayStation 3 console will be available sometime later this year, while U.S. software maker Microsoft Corp., which competes with its Xbox 360, is starting "New Xbox Experience" worldwide Nov. 19. [International Herald Tribune]
Microsoft promised to be more varied as a gateway to various entertainment, such as watching movies, going to virtual parties and sharing your collection of photos.
"Our goal is to make the Xbox experience more visual, easier to use, more fun to use and more social," he [Shappert] said in an interview at a nearby hotel. "We focused a lot on friends and other experiences outside just playing games."[International Herald Tribune]
What the International Herald Tribune didn't write is that it wasn't exactly Sony that Microsoft was taking on, they were on a collision course with Nintendo's Wii experience.
The moment MTV News revealed Microsoft was working on a Mii-like system called Avatars, accusations of copying Nintendo started flying.
That reaction only intensified when the rumors became fact at this year’s E3. Microsoft expected this reaction. At least, that’s what they told me while showing the “New Xbox Experience,” a complete dashboard revamp coming later this year.
“I remember the CES right after the Wii launched and all the [gaming] editors were asking, ‘When are you guys going to do your version of the Miis?,” Xbox director of marketing Albert Penello told MTV Multiplayer in a hotel suite interview two weeks ago. “I remember going, ‘You guys are going to slaughter us in the press if we ever do it.’ [lMTV]
Read the full story in MTV's Microsoft: Our Mii-Like Avatars Borrow From ‘World of Warcraft,’ Could Connect With ‘Gears of War’ .
Actually it's quite funny. I remember someone at Microsoft said (very recently): "Nah, social worlds don't work. No money to be made there". Remember who it was?
It was Microsoft's Craig Mundie who spoke at the MIT Emtech summit last month.
"Microsoft's Craig Mundie has dismissed the potential of "synthetic virtual worlds" like Second Life, saying that the potential for immersive environments will be likely realized through 3D tools that capture and model the real world.
Read the full story at MindBlizzard: "Microsoft: 3D Future will be Photosynth ". It isn't the first time Microsoft says something doesn't have any real future, yet buys in big a short while later on to make up for their initial misinterpretation of the trends.
The Guild is a very funny online series about the online and offline lives of four people who live in a World of Warcraft like virtual world.
The Guild has won a number of awards, like the 2007 Youtube Awards and2008 Yahoo Video Awards. From YouTube here's the first episode
Here's a couple of facts on the series:
The people I hang out with are either dedicated gamers (people that play World of Warcraft, Warhamemr, Lord of the Rings Online or Rapelz), or metaverse enthusiasts that explore virtual worlds and do interesting blah blah on interoperability and portability. In neither community we take 3D chatrooms very seriously and why should we? Those are just chatrooms, not entire worlds. When we chat, we use twitter, msn or skype.
I guess that's not fair on the chatrooms. Let's be honest. What have we seen of corporate use in virtual worlds sofar? Most users to Second Life do little else than using it as a social hangout to chat or do other social stuff which could easily have been done just as good in a 3D chatroom.
We can laugh at most of these 3D chatrooms and wave them away as being niche things in the industry. This is true for a number of these environments, as some can barely reach 2.5D or have a sole focus on sex, like Rapture or Naughty America, but there's one that stands out among its peers: IMVU.
You just can't miss IMVU these days. Whereas the majority of 3D related ads was taken up by World of Warcraft about a year ago, lately the ad market for 3D products seems to be dominated by IMVU. In the picture below a screenshot from the IMVU website, and 5 different IMVU ads I encountered in the last 5 hours at technorati.Aside from the addvertisements, I don't hear a lot about IMVU, but it's serious business out there. In the past year they've grown rapidly - without much fuzz overtaking even Second Life in users - growing to over 20 million registered users, with about 600K active users every month. So what is IMVU exactly and why is it so succesfull
IMVU is a graphical instant messaging client with over 20 million registered users, and over 600,000 active monthly users, as of June 6th, 2008. Currently, it is in public beta, and has been available since April 02, 2004. It is developed by IMVU, Inc., founded by Will Harvey, a video game developer and founder of There.
IMVU has world’s largest catalog of virtual goods with over 1.5 million items, produced by over 100,000 content creators. It has generated $1 million in revenue per month, 90% of which comes directly from consumers who buy IMVU credits and virtual goods.
The primary focus of IMVU is the ability to use personalized 3D avatars and environments that let the user interact with the person they are chatting with. The secondary focus of IMVU is allowing the members to develop content that can be purchased by other members for use in personalizing their avatars and environments. [Wikipedia]
In general the presscoverage for Virtual Worlds has been dominated by Second Life, both positive and negative. The people I've spoken to, working at other Virtual Worlds generally feel most impact of the negative publications about Second Life, and feel they have hurt the industry and hampered growth. Yet again, this does not seem to be true for IMVU. They've mainly steered away from the press and did their own things. IMVU started up in 2004 and it took them four years (!) to release their first press statement, or as IMVU's CEO Cary Rosenzweig said last June:
"Today we take a big step for IMVU as a company - we’re issuing our first-ever
We are starting public relations (“PR”) activities for the first time in order to tell the IMVU story to a larger audience. We want to reach out and attract even more people to IMVU so that you have more people to meet, more people to have fun with, more people to buy your items from the catalog, more people to become content creators themselves."
And this was only after they've hit the 20M user mark.
In November last year I made a short overview of chatroom. To see what elkse is out there, check out this blogpost.
Ever since I read the Lord of the Rings, in the early 90's, I've been a huge fan. When Peter Jackson made an epic movie out of it, I drooled. Now, we've got Lord of the Rings Online. The Guys and Gals over at Massively also have taken a liking of LotRO and put up a series of articles on the latest expansion to LotRO, the "Mines of Moria"
By this time you've scoured through our 43-image visual tour of Lord of the Rings Online's Mines of Moria, our PAX08 Moria preview gallery and our main Mines of Moria gallery, but you're ready for more! Guess what! You're in luck, because we now present to you an exclusive video of footage shot during our dev tour. This video was created by Massively's Features Editor Dan O'Halloran and showcases the expansiveness of the Mines of Moria. You'll find it just after the jump below.
If you still can't get enough Moria, keep your eyes glued on Massively over the next few weeks for more information, news, in-depth guides and more!
"The two years since virtual worlds went "mainstream" have been a roller-coaster ride for all involved; for every success like World of Warcraft, there have been negative developments such as the media backlash against Second Life. Now, as a number of new worlds are appearing, the technology is improving, and interest levels are growing, virtual worlds are ready to enter their second phase. Forrester recommends that consumer product strategy professionals watch the space carefully — if they are not involved already — as we expect the next 12 months to be momentous for consumer virtual worlds. Much-heralded new worlds will arrive, marketers will return to the medium after initially being burned, and Web3D elements will start to creep into consumers' lives. "
A peak concurrency of 61,560 (a new record!) at 1:45PM, and a minimum concurrency of 34,399 at 11:55PM. Median concurrency for the day was 46,627.
For comparison purposes, Everquest's record concurrency is reported to have been approximately 90,000 which puts Linden Lab's virtual world more than two thirds of the way there in terms of usage.
Scalability, max concurrency are all relative categories though, as each and every world uses its own technique (streaming, download client, java, flash and whatelse there is in variation). Second Life islands can hold 50 to 90 people at the same time, other NVE's can run 8,000 on a single server. It's architecture, infrastructure and all these little things. The bottomline is do we have a good experience when the world we're in is pushing its limits?
Some noticed a slight downfall in performance last weekend on Second Life, as they were pushing their max concurrency. Scripting, rezzing etc slowed down a bit. So perhaps it will be July 2008 before Second Life pushes beyond 80 K and year end may see 100K, but I know they're getting there. The new Windlight Client that's available is going to be the best tested client ever and the Linden QA team is trying to get rid of all that resource sucking stuff in there. I think 2008 shows promise for Second Life.
"At the moment there are only a few games that support head tracking, such as World of WarCraft, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Second Life, and a few others."
"I've picked a lot of nits, and at this stage I've been wrestling with drivers and trying to put a shirt over my head to block out incoming light. I'm kind of cranky that way. All of that annoyance was gone, as I found myself inside the cockpit. Like, inside it. I look down and see the instrument panel. I look left and see out the window. I look up and see the rivets holding the metal plates of the plane together. I took off, looked out the right window over the empty seat, and banked hard so I could see the ocean beneath me. Amazing. The sense of flight and actually being there is almost overwhelming. "
It's not World of Warcraft, not even a virtual world or online gaming experience, but a plain animation that caught my eye today.
This is the Paramount announcement:
"Dragonlance fans -- We’re sorry that it has taken this long to get a trailer
out. We had been waiting in hopes that we could show you the final trailer but
unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e. key talent issues etc) we
have not been able to cut the final trailer together and get 100% approval. Ever
since we showed this piece at GenCon and DragonCon there has been a huge demand to see the trailer so we figured it’d be best to show you the rough version
instead of having everyone wait even longer. We appreciate your patience.
It's been a while since I read the Dragonlance Saga by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, must have been somewhere near 1999 while I was working on my thesis "the Alternate Word" a study in correlation between bible, mythology and fantasy literature. It'll be fun watching the tale again. Really looking forward to it.
Also from a virtual world and gaming aspect I've been keeping an eye on Margaret Weis as she's got a new startup, MWP (Margaret Weis Productions - obviously) which is bringing the Battlestar Galactica roleplaying game.
see also the Dragonlance website here