MMO Weekly: NASA MMO, Champions in June, Free Realms Beta, Blizzcon, and LotRO to Level 60

Space: The final frontier for MMO games. Many have tried and many have failed. Does all hope lay at the feet of NASA to create a mainstream space MMO? I apologize for not having your MMO news last week, but it was a slow news week. This time I’m giving you all the news from last week and this week combined with the opening segment of my time in Middle-Earth as I play Lord of the Rings Online.

Nasa MMO

Ok, no more Star Trek references, I promise. The developers have been assigned to work on the NASA MMO titled Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond. The developers, Project Whitecard, are tasked to make the game fun. No real game information has gotten out about Astronaut, but it is running on the Unreal Engine 3 and we will be playing the demo by the end of 2009. The website Massively has posted screenshots for your viewing pleasure here:

Source

Champions Online

Champions Online

This one can actually be put in the rumor bin. The gents over at 1UP ran a story last week saying that Cryptic’s superhero MMO, Champions Online, will hit retail shelves in June of this year. I contacted the developers and they said that they will only confirm a 2009 release for the game. Also, it won’t be too long before the press will get their beta accounts, so expect more information about the game in the very near future.

This week we have a new “Ask Cryptic” that answers even more questions about the game in closed beta. In the Q&A with the community, Cryptic announced that you will not be able to play a shape-shifting superhero just yet and you can form your very own super group (guild) at level 10. There is no level requirement to join a pre-existing super group. Also, user JuryDuty asked why the developers have been playing with an Xbox 360 controller when they demo the game, to which Cryptic responded that it’s personal preference; Champions Online will be playable by mouse and keyboard or a console controller. You can read the rest of the story here.

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World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

It’s that time again, where geeks, nerds, soccer moms, and babies in Murloc costumes descend upon Anaheim, California for Blizzard’s annual Blizzcon convention. The event will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center Friday August 21st through Saturday August 22nd.

This year’s BlizzCon will feature:

  • Hands-on play time with upcoming Blizzard Entertainment games
  • Discussion panels with Blizzard Entertainment developers
  • Competitive and casual tournaments for players to showcase their talents
  • Community contests with great prizes
  • Commemorative merchandise based on Blizzard Entertainment’s game universes
  • A silent auction
  • More exciting activities and attractions to be announced

In other WoW news, Blizzard has released Patch 3.1, which includes the new, now-playable raid dungeon on the test realm. Some of the features in the new patch include the previously announced raid dungeon Ulduar, implementation of the new Dual-Spec feature, and land mounts’ new ability to swim. Check out the WoW Insider article for a roundup of every change coming to the new patch.

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Free Realms

Free Realms

Sony Online Entertainment has announced that their upcoming kid’s MMO is now in closed beta and accepting early applications to join the open beta which starts in April. Check the press release for more information.

Here’s the full release:

Free Realms™, a free online virtual world developed for kids and families by Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE), has entered the closed beta stage of development. SOE is currently accepting early registration for open beta, set to start in early April. To be considered for participation in the open beta, players of all ages can register at www.freerealms.com.

Free Realms is currently in a critical stage of development known as beta. Beta testing is the last step of game development and the first chance for a few selected players outside of the company to experience the game.

“The beta testing phase is integral to the success of any video game, and we are asking that kids, parents, video game fans of all ages sign up to help us during these final weeks before Free Realms launches,” said John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment. “Ten years ago, SOE introduced EverQuest, the genre-defining online video game, and this spring, we will introduce Free Realms, a game I believe will expand and enrich the kids’ online gaming genre which really shows the rapid evolution of the online game space.”

Free Realms brings to life a whimsical virtual world where gamers can explore, compete, raise pets and socialize. This exciting game is a new way for PC gamers to connect online in a safe, online, family-friendly environment. Free Realms offers a wide variety of gameplay mechanics, including exploration, combat, race car driving, pet raising, mini-games and social networking.

Free Realms offers a variety of features, including:

* Free Gameplay: Free Realms is free to play, however additional content can be accessed through a membership or micro transaction.
* Rich Character Creation: With thousands of customizations and combinations, you can blend fantasy and reality to create your perfect avatar.
* Be Whoever You Want: Characters aren’t locked into classes or jobs – you can be a wizard one minute and a race car driver the next.
* Kid-Safe: Parental controls allow for the customization of safety options, including pre-canned chat, reporting and filters for younger players.
* Something for Everyone: Players can take care of pets, sort mail, race go-karts, battle goblins or cook meals for their friends.
* Vibrant, Deep Environment: Adventurous gamers can spend hours exploring towns, bustling cities, beaches, forests, snowy mountaintops and more.
* Connect with Friends: Whether you’re meeting up with old friends or finding new ones, Free Realms allows players to stay connected through its social networking page. Just log in, see what your friends have been up to, click their avatar and join them in Free Realms.
* Everyone Can Access: Free Realms is designed to run on nearly all PCs. The game will stream to your PC as you play, so Free Realms will not take up a lot of memory and will download quickly.

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Dungeon & Dragons Online

Dungeons and Dragons Online

One MMO that has been flying under the radar is DDO, and it is now celebrating its 3rd anniversary. The players are reaping all the benefits of the game’s birthday by getting bonus experience and some cool loot. On the website they explain the goodies that DDO subscribers will receive:

Starting this Friday, February 27th, and running through March 1st, DDO Players will gain a 50% XP bonus and +1 tier bonus to loot quality! But the fun doesn’t stop there! Once 50% XP and +1 loot are over with on Sunday March 1st, starting Monday March 2nd, enjoy 10% bonus XP for 2 weeks!

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Lord of the Rings Online: Journey to Level 60 #1

LotTO

Hello and welcome to the first edition of LOTRO: Journey to Level 60. Each week I will retell my adventures in Middle-Earth and give some much-needed attention to a game that is better than many say it is. This week I will give my first impressions of the game and tell you all which race and class I am playing.

It took me a week and a half to figure the race and class I wanted to play. Initially I was going with the Warden class, which has only been in the game since the Mines of Moria expansion. The Warden uses combos to unleash deadlier attack and was fun for the first few levels, until I go to a point where I couldn’t solo anymore. The problem I find with most MMO games that aren’t World of Warcraft is at some point they force you to group with others to complete quests. This wouldn’t be a problem if the in-game chat wasn’t a barren wasteland I haven’t seen the likes of since a few weeks after the Warhammer Online launch. I haven’t figured out if I am playing on a low-population server or if all starting zones have no chatter. So, after not getting to level 10 with the Warden, I decided to try a Minstrel since I only played healers in WoW and is my favorite type of class to play in RPGs. Once again I got a few levels and then was unable to solo without getting killed.

Joshipoo from Lord of the Rings Online

At this point thoughts start to set in that somehow I am playing this game wrong. After taking a break for a day or two I start a Dwarf Champion named Joshipoo. The champion class is a dual-wielding melee DPS class and is the main one I played back in the beta. For some reason this class really clicks with me and my personality. The Champion’s main focus is to kill mobs before they kill you by using your superior firepower and strength. This is my kind of class.

As of right now I am leveling in Thorin’s Gate and I am level 7. Besides a few problems with the inactivity in the chat room and a god awful map that makes it almost impossible to find where you need to go, I am really enjoying my time so far in Lord of the Rings Online. Once I play a bit more I can go into further detail on how the developers could decrease the frustrations the more casual MMO player would have with the game. If you’re interested in playing along with me I am on the Nimrodel server and would love to start up a Kinship (guild) for anyone who would like to try this game.

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