Note: FilePlanet is no longer being updated and is in the process of being archived.

Home / FileBlog Home / Archives

FileBlog Archive

03/25/2007 - 03/31/2007

Magical Memories of Magic: The Gathering

March 29, 2007


I'm also a cartoon in real life. Man, I used to dread the shoebox.

I was in college, most likely putting off a paper that was due, and somebody suggested a "friendly" game of Magic: The Gathering. I was always up for a game. Being a poor student at an expensive school, I'd scribbed and scraped away to manage to buy a few packs of cards, then applied every social engineering trick I knew to trade 'em up for one slim little unstoppable red/green deck. "Sure, let's play!" I'd say, reaching into my bag to pull out my tattered little fistful of cards.

Then my buddies would all pull out the shoeboxes. Piles of cards. Sorted and catalogued. Multiple decks. Vicious combinations built around ultra-rare cards. What's up with that? Didn't these guys have tuitions to pay?

True story. But here, my friends, is the beauty of Magic... I could win! Why? Because I had the skillz. I had mad mathematics, serious strategery. They laughed when I put down my Crookshank Kobolds. Then I gave my Kobolds firebreathing...

Part of the long-lasting appeal of Magic is that it works on so many levels. Whether you want to play seriously or casually, whether you want to invest a lot of money or a little, whatever you want to get out of the game you can find.

I'm not in school anymore, and friends with shoeboxes aren't living in the dorm rooms next to me anymore. This makes a game of Magic harder to get underway -- at least, it used to. Magic: The Gathering Online was built for people like me (and maybe people like you) who love the game but don't have the time to invest in finding opponents or traveling to tournaments. You can pop in, organize some digital cards, and play a quick match in just a few minutes. The new version, M:tG Online Version III, has a nifty new interface with improved player-matching, so it should be even easier.

As you might have guessed by the image on the FilePlanet front page today, we're just unleashed the Magic: The Gathering Online Version III closed beta test! If you're a FilePlanet subscriber, you can test your mettle against online opponents while testing out the new version. Since everyone in the beta starts with a small arsenal of cards, it's also a great way for new players to tinker around and learn the game. Try it for yourself!

Download the Magic: the Gathering Online Version III Beta Test!

      -Fargo

Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 10:58 AM PDT
Permalink

Must-Read Column of the Day: Rethinking the MMO

March 28, 2007


I'm also a cartoon in real life. I love massively multiplayer games. First, there's the yet-to-be-unlocked potential of them: unlike much of PC gaming, the massively multiplayer genre can branch out in wild new directions, and we're going to see a lot great new ideas in the coming years. Secondly, even though a lot of gamers (legitimately) claim that current MMOs are in a rut, they're still a lot of fun to play. I'll gleefully while away an entire evening in World of Warcraft (give the WoW free trial a spin). And I've spent the last couple weeks roaring through Lineage II -- my goal is to participate in a castle raid before I die.

So like most of you, I'm passionate about the MMO scene. I love reading what the eggheads have to say, and I can't get enough commentary from people within the games industry. Which brings us to today's must-read article:

Rethinking the MMO by Neil Sorens.

I don't agree with much of this column, but pieces of it made my brain tingle in a good way. Sorens is coming at this from an interesting angle: although his first work in the gaming industry was as a Game Master for EverQuest, the majority of his experience lies in building single-player or sports games. So he's looking at MMOs as a game designer, but from the outside.

I see this on the forums all the time.

So some of his observations make you go, "hmm." For instance, Sorens asserts that the main draw of these games (at least as they're built today) is not exploring a world, nor is it the gameplay (which he complains is repetitive), nor even the community -- it's the ongoing development of a persistent entity. In fact, he says that we ought to be calling these games Persistent Entity Games, or PEGs. According to Sorens, if developers would step back and look at why people are actually playing MMOs, they might make different design decisions. Say it with me: Hmmmm!

Of course, I also spent most of the six-page article shaking my fist at the screen. Sorens writes as though games haven't changed since EverQuest, and while you can legitimately say that the core model for most MMOs is still a level-based grind, the gameplay experience for modern MMOs like World of Warcraft is considerably different in terms of casual play, solo play, game pacing, risk and reward structures, player-vs-player combat, and so on. Plus, Sorens seems to ignore outside-the-box games like Guild Wars or Puzzle Pirates, both of which offer really unique solutions to the problems he brings up.

Furthermore, it's easy for someone to say, "Would it really be so bad if player A and player B had different game experiences as a result of the world being altered?" in reference to creating world-changing MMO events. But actually implementing that, scaling it up across an entire game, and making it so everyone has a good experience no matter what state the world is in -- that's hard. Similarly, it's easy to say "Design for fun first, balance second," but the reality of a multiplayer game is that even the slightest imbalance is magnified by hundreds of thousands of players and can close off huge chunks of content for anyone who doesn't fall on the favorable side. These ideas aren't news to MMO developers; rather, the solutions developers are offering are more incremental and conservative thanks to the nature of the business.

(Side note: boutique MMO developers, who have small teams working on simple game engines, have much more freedom to try radical game designs. Again, Look at Puzzle Pirates.)

But overall, any article that alternates between making me scratch my chin in nodding assent and shake my fist in disagreement is my definition of a must-read. Check out 'Rethinking the MMO' on Gamasutra! For a related read, hit this business analysis piece on GameDaily.

      -Fargo

Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 12:50 PM PDT
Edited on: March 28, 2007 12:54 PM PDT
Permalink

What's Selling on the PC Nowadays? (Plus: PS3 Update)

March 27, 2007


I'm also a cartoon in real life. Before I dive into it for today, I have a quick update to yesterday's blog talking about the state of the console wars. Apparently Sony can be proud of its UK sales numbers, selling 165,000 units during the first weekend of availability. Not too shabby! We'll see if Sony can keep the momentum going. Nintendo would undoubtedly have better numbers if the company could just get more Wii consoles into the retail pipe... which is really hurting them in the U.K. right now. Cheer up, brits: You'll be wrecking your TVs in no time.

What's Hot on the PC?

NPD Group has listed the Top 10 PC Games sold for the week of March 11-17. The NPD group Focuses on North American retailers and captures about 80% of the retail market, so these numbers are pretty solid, at least on this continent. Check it:

1. The Sims 2 Seasons -- Electronic Arts
2. World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade -- Blizzard/Vivendi
3. World of Warcraft -- Blizzard/Vivendi
4. The Sims 2 -- Electronic Arts
5. Supreme Commander -- THQ
6. The Sims 2 Pets -- Electronic Arts
7. Company of Heroes -- THQ
8. Titan Quest: Immortal Throne -- THQ
9. Battlefield 2142 -- Electronic Arts
10. The Sims: Life Stories -- Electronic Arts

I have a couple of thoughts on the current state of PC game sales. First off, I know that gamers complain about the number of sequels and same-olds on the store shelves, but look at what sells! A key franchise will drive huge numbers for years. The number 2 and number 4 games on this list came out in 2004, and the number 1 and number 3 games are expansions to 'em! It's safe to say that the franchise is king, at least in PC gaming.

But the main thing I wanted to talk about was the rise of THQ. A few years ago THQ had some okay games in its portfolio but the company wasn't known for blockbusters. Look at THQ now! Both Company of Heroes and Supreme Commander are original franchises (nice work guys!), and Company of Heroes in particular is widely applauded by both critics and gamers. It was GameSpy's 2006 PC Game of the Year, IGN's 2006 PC Game of the Year, as well as GameSpy's number 2 overall Game of the Year and IGN's Best Strategy Game of 2006. And sales are still topping the chart -- THQ is really turning into a powerhouse. I can't wait to see what the company unveils this year.

With two big RTS games on there, I'm also curious to see if this list changes dramatically once we start seeing numbers for Command & Conquer 3, which arrives in stores this week. Have you seen it yet? Download the C&C 3 Demo! Kane accepts nothing less than your absolute loyalty.

      -Fargo

Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 10:17 AM PDT
Edited on: March 27, 2007 10:32 AM PDT
Permalink

The Console Wars Are Starting to Get Dirty

March 26, 2007


I'm also a cartoon in real life. Worldwide... insanity. That's how it looked to me this past weekend with European and Australian launches of the PS3, accompanied by crazy rhetoric from all sides. The real story here is how the Wii continues to gain momentum. Some sites are already claiming that the Wii has sold six million units, which puts Nintendo just ahead of schedule (the company had planned to reach the six million milestone at the end of March). Nintendo's plan seems to be working: The Wii is Winning over retirees and opening new markets for gaming.

How do the numbers look? The Xbox 360 still leads the next-generation with 9.6 million units, followed by the Nintendo Wii and its 6-Mil milestone. The PS3 lags behind with 2.6 million units... for the moment. Keep in mind that this battle is just heating up. For comparison, the PlayStation 2 sold 110 million units (and it's still selling!), so this race isn't even a tenth of the way over.

But already it's getting dirty. This weekend the PlayStation 3 launched in Europe (IGN UK has a list of all UK Launch titles, reviewed). Sony drummed up the noise by giving away 46" HDTVs to gamers in London, while Microsoft provided a convincing counter-argument by sending free beer to games editors in the U.K.. In the press, Microsoft's UK boss ragged on the system in the London Times, while Sony continues to shoot itself in the foot by calling U.S. consumers "Cheap" and the U.K. "a little island." That's harsh; but I'm willing to forgive Sony they send me one of those free TVs.

Bad press abounds: Even USA Today is bagging on Sony.

Elsewhere in the world, the PS3 had a slow Australian launch, where security and press outnumbered customers. Then in France, Microsoft crashed the PS3 Launch event in Paris. I'm telling you! Worldwide insanity! And it's just starting.

My take on the console wars? It's all about the content, regardless of the proclamations in the press. Nintendo has a great product, but in my opinion the company is going to lose momentum unless they get more games on the market that appeal to the system's core strengths. At my house Wii Sports is still the biggest hit, and that came free with the system. WarioWare is the only recent title jumping off the shelf at me. Microsoft, meanwhile, has tons of great content in the hopper, from Bioshock to Halo 3, so I don't expect to see sales stagnate for the Xbox 360. Sony is the wildcard right now: there's no reason to buy a PS3 yet, but maybe that all changes when games like Warhawk hit store shelves. My point is, even though the Wii is the big story here in March, I wouldn't call the race just yet.

Sure is fun to watch from the sidelines, though.

UPDATE: Earlier I'd listed Assassin's Creed as my example of a must-have PS3 title, forgetting that AC is now coming out on all the major systems. Several readers called me out on that, including Malcolm Wood, who wrote in to say: "If Sony doesn't start putting great games on the PS3 that are exclusive to it, then the PS3 is going to be going up the creek without a paddle." Very, very true.

      -Fargo

Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 10:39 AM PDT
Edited on: March 26, 2007 3:22 PM PDT
Permalink

FileBlog Weekly Archives

10/24/2010 - 10/30/2010
10/17/2010 - 10/23/2010
10/10/2010 - 10/16/2010
10/03/2010 - 10/09/2010
09/26/2010 - 10/02/2010
09/19/2010 - 09/25/2010
09/12/2010 - 09/18/2010
09/05/2010 - 09/11/2010
08/22/2010 - 08/28/2010
08/08/2010 - 08/14/2010
08/01/2010 - 08/07/2010
07/25/2010 - 07/31/2010
07/18/2010 - 07/24/2010
07/11/2010 - 07/17/2010
07/04/2010 - 07/10/2010
06/27/2010 - 07/03/2010
06/20/2010 - 06/26/2010
06/13/2010 - 06/19/2010
06/06/2010 - 06/12/2010
05/30/2010 - 06/05/2010
05/23/2010 - 05/29/2010
05/16/2010 - 05/22/2010
05/09/2010 - 05/15/2010
05/02/2010 - 05/08/2010
04/25/2010 - 05/01/2010
04/18/2010 - 04/24/2010
04/11/2010 - 04/17/2010
04/04/2010 - 04/10/2010
03/21/2010 - 03/27/2010
03/14/2010 - 03/20/2010
03/07/2010 - 03/13/2010
02/28/2010 - 03/06/2010
02/21/2010 - 02/27/2010
02/14/2010 - 02/20/2010
02/07/2010 - 02/13/2010
01/31/2010 - 02/06/2010
01/24/2010 - 01/30/2010
01/10/2010 - 01/16/2010
01/03/2010 - 01/09/2010
12/27/2009 - 01/02/2010
12/20/2009 - 12/26/2009
12/13/2009 - 12/19/2009
12/06/2009 - 12/12/2009
11/22/2009 - 11/28/2009
11/15/2009 - 11/21/2009
11/08/2009 - 11/14/2009
11/01/2009 - 11/07/2009
10/25/2009 - 10/31/2009
10/18/2009 - 10/24/2009
10/11/2009 - 10/17/2009
10/04/2009 - 10/10/2009
09/27/2009 - 10/03/2009
09/20/2009 - 09/26/2009
09/13/2009 - 09/19/2009
09/06/2009 - 09/12/2009
08/30/2009 - 09/05/2009
08/16/2009 - 08/22/2009
08/09/2009 - 08/15/2009
07/26/2009 - 08/01/2009
07/19/2009 - 07/25/2009
07/12/2009 - 07/18/2009
07/05/2009 - 07/11/2009
06/28/2009 - 07/04/2009
06/21/2009 - 06/27/2009
06/14/2009 - 06/20/2009
06/07/2009 - 06/13/2009
05/31/2009 - 06/06/2009
05/24/2009 - 05/30/2009
05/17/2009 - 05/23/2009
05/10/2009 - 05/16/2009
05/03/2009 - 05/09/2009
04/26/2009 - 05/02/2009
04/19/2009 - 04/25/2009
04/12/2009 - 04/18/2009
04/05/2009 - 04/11/2009
03/29/2009 - 04/04/2009
03/22/2009 - 03/28/2009
03/15/2009 - 03/21/2009
03/08/2009 - 03/14/2009
03/01/2009 - 03/07/2009
02/22/2009 - 02/28/2009
02/15/2009 - 02/21/2009
02/08/2009 - 02/14/2009
02/01/2009 - 02/07/2009
01/25/2009 - 01/31/2009
01/18/2009 - 01/24/2009
01/11/2009 - 01/17/2009
01/04/2009 - 01/10/2009
12/28/2008 - 01/03/2009
12/21/2008 - 12/27/2008
12/14/2008 - 12/20/2008
12/07/2008 - 12/13/2008
11/30/2008 - 12/06/2008
11/23/2008 - 11/29/2008
11/16/2008 - 11/22/2008
11/09/2008 - 11/15/2008
11/02/2008 - 11/08/2008
10/26/2008 - 11/01/2008
10/19/2008 - 10/25/2008
10/05/2008 - 10/11/2008
09/28/2008 - 10/04/2008
09/14/2008 - 09/20/2008
09/07/2008 - 09/13/2008
08/10/2008 - 08/16/2008
08/03/2008 - 08/09/2008
07/27/2008 - 08/02/2008
07/06/2008 - 07/12/2008
06/29/2008 - 07/05/2008
06/22/2008 - 06/28/2008
06/15/2008 - 06/21/2008
06/08/2008 - 06/14/2008
05/25/2008 - 05/31/2008
05/11/2008 - 05/17/2008
05/04/2008 - 05/10/2008
04/20/2008 - 04/26/2008
04/06/2008 - 04/12/2008
03/16/2008 - 03/22/2008
03/09/2008 - 03/15/2008
02/24/2008 - 03/01/2008
02/03/2008 - 02/09/2008
01/06/2008 - 01/12/2008
12/30/2007 - 01/05/2008
10/28/2007 - 11/03/2007
10/21/2007 - 10/27/2007
10/14/2007 - 10/20/2007
09/30/2007 - 10/06/2007
09/23/2007 - 09/29/2007
09/16/2007 - 09/22/2007
09/09/2007 - 09/15/2007
09/02/2007 - 09/08/2007
08/26/2007 - 09/01/2007
08/19/2007 - 08/25/2007
08/12/2007 - 08/18/2007
08/05/2007 - 08/11/2007
07/29/2007 - 08/04/2007
07/22/2007 - 07/28/2007
07/15/2007 - 07/21/2007
07/08/2007 - 07/14/2007
07/01/2007 - 07/07/2007
06/24/2007 - 06/30/2007
06/17/2007 - 06/23/2007
06/10/2007 - 06/16/2007
06/03/2007 - 06/09/2007
05/27/2007 - 06/02/2007
05/20/2007 - 05/26/2007
05/13/2007 - 05/19/2007
05/06/2007 - 05/12/2007
04/29/2007 - 05/05/2007
04/22/2007 - 04/28/2007
04/15/2007 - 04/21/2007
04/08/2007 - 04/14/2007
04/01/2007 - 04/07/2007
03/25/2007 - 03/31/2007
03/18/2007 - 03/24/2007
03/11/2007 - 03/17/2007
03/04/2007 - 03/10/2007
02/25/2007 - 03/03/2007
02/18/2007 - 02/24/2007
02/11/2007 - 02/17/2007
02/04/2007 - 02/10/2007
01/28/2007 - 02/03/2007
01/21/2007 - 01/27/2007
01/14/2007 - 01/20/2007
01/07/2007 - 01/13/2007
12/31/2006 - 01/06/2007