MMO Weekly: WoW lead jumping ship, layoffs at NCsoft, Free Realms beta

This week we have a bit of breaking news that hit Thursday evening about World of Warcraft losing its lead designer to another MMO. We also have also news of layoffs at NCsoft and an announcement about SOE’s next MMO, Free Realms.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

Today is a bittersweet day for Blizzard fans. On the World of Warcraft forums, blue poster (they are the developers) Tigole posted that he would be stepping down from working on World of Warcraft to jump in the bed with another MMO. Tigole is Jeffrey Kaplan, lead designer on WoW and basically the face you have put with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. His forum post talked about how the community is what made the game so successful, and that WoW is still his favorite game. Don’t be too upset because Kaplan is going to be working on Blizzard’s other unannounced "next-gen" MMO. No details about a possible WoW successor have been leaked, but since Kaplan is switching games you should expect to start hearing things within the year.

Good news, fans of PvP. The 2009 Arena tournament will be starting up next week, in which you can win cash prizes up to $200,000. I’m not a big arena person, but that is what press releases are for — to inform the uninformed.

We’re pleased to announce that the 2009 World of Warcraft Arena Tournament is nearly here. Starting next week (February 17, 2009), players will be able to sign up to compete in this year’s exciting competition. The tournament will feature an online qualifier played on our special tournament realms. Top teams will proceed to their respective regional finals and compete for a chance to reach the global world championship – with cash prizes totaling over $200,000.
These realms have been outfitted with level 80 character templates and the latest epic gear from Wrath of the Lich King. As an added bonus, we have included exclusive rewards that players can earn by participating in the tournament, including an Armored Murloc in-game pet. Top teams will also contend for a chance to achieve the "Vanquisher" title for their live characters.
If you would like to demonstrate your arena prowess, or simply want a chance to earn the exclusive loot, please check back next week for more details and register!

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Warhammer Online

WAR

Twitter is kind of a big deal. As of right now I am following the likes of Cobra Commander and Darth Vader. Now you can follow the WAR Herald which will give you updates on community and server news. Hopefully, they use this to reach new subscribers or hand out free goodies. You can sign up for twitter and follow the guys at Warhammer by clicking here.

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Free Realms

FreeRealms

Another week, another free-to-play MMO. This week Sony Online Entertainment, the people that brought you such gems as Star Wars Galaxies and The Matrix Online, announced that their upcoming game Free Realms will be released on the PC in April with a beta coming in the next few weeks. They also mentioned that a PS3 version is in the works (along with added content because of the delay) and a Mac version is possible.

Seeing how this is SOE’s first attempt at the free-to-play model, they are going all out in the microtransaction department. Everything from potions to pets will cost you through their SOE Station Cash service.


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NCsoft

News broke Wednesday morning that NCsoft was laying off a good bit of people from their Europe studio. Later that day, the website Massively was contacted by the publisher to say that these layoffs were actually a restructuring of NCsoft Europe to be more focused on marketing their games instead of developing. Massively also had a source that was laid off by the company that said the community team, creative services team, web development team, localization and many others were laid off. The source also said that upcoming MMOs Aion and Guild Wars 2 are not in any trouble and are actually a major focus within the company right now. Along with their comment, NCsoft also sent along a press release explaining the reason for their decision to lay off part of its workforce.

"In order to solidify and streamline company operations across all NCsoft West territories, we are implementing some structural changes this week which will impact 70 to 90 employees. We are working with these employees to determine the best fit for approximately 80 alternate positions within the company.

The European office is transitioning to have a stronger focus in marketing and sales, with many of the existing disciplines being consolidated in our studios on the US West Coast and our headquarters in Seattle. Additionally, we are transitioning to an embedded quality assurance (QA) model in which the QA staff works in our studios directly with the development teams, providing support throughout the entire development process.

This finalizes the NCsoft West reorganization plan which began last September, and the resulting structure will better support the company’s direction." – NCsoft PR

 

Lord of the Rings Online

LotRO

After two days of installing LOTRO, I finally got a chance to log in and experience the world of Middle-Earth for the first time since the beta. Now, I didn’t really get to do much in the game since I haven’t decided which class I am going to play yet. I definitely want to pick between the two new classes that were introduced with the Mines of Moria expansion, the Warden and the Runekeeper. The Warden was described as a tank class that allowed you to combo attacks to unleash a gambit for massive damage while the Runekeeper was a caster class with the roles of a nuker/healer depending on how you want to play. Also, I want to give a special thanks to Stacey for being so nice to me when she didn’t have to. Cheers Stacey.

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