Monthly Archives: March 2011

Under The Wire: Vampire The Masquerade-Bloodlines

Under The Wire: Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Neil Kewn – OnRPG Journalist

Vampires have enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to the Twilight saga and its controversial portrayal of the bloodsucking mutants. Whilst Robert Pattinson isn’t for everyone, those who wish to sink their teeth into a more interactive vampiric tale have a nice selection of games to choose from. BloodRayne, the Dracula saga, Vampire Rain and even The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion all have their own take on our freaky friends. Yet possibly the most notable vampire title comes in the form of 2004s Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines, developed by Troika Games. It’s an immersive PC role-playing game that gives players the chance to satisfy their bloodthirst in the safety of their own home.

Bloodlines is very much driven by a narrative, based on the pen and paper role-playing series Vampire: The Masquerade. You can expect a very detailed and atmospheric tale. But there is also a lot of freedom to be had, and you often find yourself branching off to take part in many of the games intriguing side quests. You take on the role of a fang-wielding shadow dweller, and it is perfectly possible to play like one – lurking in the shadows and feeding on unsuspecting members of the public never gets old.

Vampire The Masquerade

Similar to many of today’s RPGs, Bloodlines lets you approach quests in any way you see fit. You don’t necessarily have to enter combat to get things done (although it usually helps) and progress can be made through choices made in conversation. Want to avoid a fight with a thug? Try and seduce him. You can be as aggressive as you want to be, with a multitude of different outcomes in each given scenario.

The characters that populate the streets can also usually be of serious use to you, helping you keep your blood level topped up or providing useful information or quests. Persuading a lost businessman to wander down a dark alleyway for a little midnight feast is an effective way to avoid a “frenzy” – a ferocious state where players lose all control over their character. It really adds to the dark and dangerous atmosphere the game sets out to create.

Bloodlines was one of the first games to utilize Valve’s infamous Source engine, and seven years later it still looks good. Textures are crisp, lighting is great and character models are detailed. It may not have the physics the Source engine became famous for, but the game is stable and runs at a nice frame rate even with maximum settings and a few mods attached. The musical score is excellent, with dark ambient tracks contrasting the thumping club beats found in the rougher parts of town. Voice work is also a highlight.

Vampire The Masquerade Review

The game begins with a character creation process. This can be done one of two ways. For those wishing to take a more narrative route, a series of questions assigns points into various abilities for you. This of course can be done manually, and a short tutorial introduces you to many of the games mechanics. From there, you branch from quest to quest solving puzzles and satisfying the needs of non-player characters, earning you experience to level up and improve your skills.

Feeding on mortals is an important activity in Bloodlines. Like all good vampires, you require regular fixes of fresh human blood to stay effective. When your blood bar is empty, you can no longer use many of the skills and abilities you have harnessed. Feeding is assigned to the F key, but draining the poor victim’s neck for too long can kill them and performing the deed in front of other mortals is a punishable offence. Masquerade points are lost for exposing your true self to humans, and once your reserve is depleted the game ends.

In terms of interface, combat and abilities are assigned to the left and right mouse buttons. Left executes your primary attack while right click performs any buff, skill or curse you have currently selected. There are a variety of weapons at your disposal ranging from melee equipment like baseball bats and police batons, to pistols and other forms of firepower. The game can be played from both a first and third person perspective, switching automatically depending on what weapon you are wielding when you begin an attack. Unfortunately, combat itself is lacking. Many of the melee attacks fail to register at times and weapons can sometimes be drastically underpowered. This improves as you make your way through the game, but it never really excites. I found myself trying to avoid confrontations with my silver tongue more often than not.

Vampire The Masquerade Review

Clans make up a substantial part of Bloodline’s narrative and gameplay, and there are seven for you to choose from. Each offers their own distinct way of playing, and depending on which you choose it can drastically alter the way you progress through the game. The bloodline you side with more or less acts like your class and you gain perks in specific skills to compliment this. The skills, or disciplines, on offer range from movement enhancements, better strength and increased ferocity to more effective curses, sorcery and even invisibility.

In addition to heeding to the Masquerade, Humanity signifies how close you are to losing your being. Doing bad deeds such as killing mortals or attacking police is met with loss of humanity and the potential to lose yourself completely when blood levels run low. Sadly one of the game’s main drawbacks is its dreadful artificial intelligence, and coupled with some subpar combat, making use of your abilities can be a very frustrating experience. Often you can feed on humans whilst others look on bemused, leading to no repercussions for your vamp.

Despite its drawbacks, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a stellar vampire title and extremely enjoyable role-playing game. There is plenty of content here to keep occupied with for hours, and a loyal community is still developing high quality mods to add to the experience. With its engrossing story and great vampire mechanics, coupled with excellent sound and a ridiculously high level of replay value, Bloodlines is a cult title that any fan of the genre should check out.

 

Vampire: The Masquerade-Bloodlines

Vampire: The Masquerade is a story driven masterpiece that brings the dark world of vampires to life in a way that few games can. Design your vampire, choose your vampiric alliance, and survive to fulfill your darkest passions in a world you do not belong in.

As a vampire, you will struggle to live from day to day in the dirtiest backstreets of downtown Los Angeles as you prey on unsuspecting members of the public to quench your never ending thirst. Players must walk a fine line between morality and self indulgence or risk turning to the dark side and losing your last bits of humanity. As your drink blood, you will gain greater control over your vampiric powers, allowing you to cast curses and wield various weapons with superhuman strength.

But there is far more to this game than drinking blood and smashing heads in. The game features a well made fully spoken narrative to really pull the player into this alternate reality. Through social prowess, you will be able to trick your enemies into turning against each other and prevent society from discovering your dark secrets.

 

Super Dancer Online – Xtreme

Experience the ultimate in online rhythm gaming with Super Dancer Online. Super Dancer Online takes the basics and expands on them with a myriad of game modes such as boys vs girls, advanced 11 key challenge, drum mode, and pet challenge to name a few.

This game goes beyond its cute exterior to provide a very competitive atmosphere through the use of organized guilds. By winning competitions, you earn points to help build a shared player housing guild hall. You can also dare your rivals to put their guild pride on the line in Guild Badge battles where the loser must fork over their guild badge as a trophy to the winner.

An intricate marriage system and multiple rpg elements can also be found in Super Dancer Online. Through winning dance offs, you can unlock greater costumes and witness your character evolve from a chibi little character to a beautiful dancing master. Then hone your skills with your significant other and rise in rankings by challenging other couples to Lover Battles.

Any fan of cute anime graphics or competitive rhythm game play will find something to enjoy in Super Dancer Online.

Gamania Provides Relief for Japan

Gamania Provides Relief for Japan

 

Gamania is providing a fantastic charity fund to help those devastated by the current crisis in Japan.

 

 

Gamania, known for publishing such games as Hero 108, Soul Captor, and Lucent Heart, will be donating $5 for every fan who likes Lucent Heart’s Facebook page. But don’t delay; this event will be ending April 4th!. Take advantage of this free chance to help those suffering in Japan.

 

Lucent Heart Facebook Page

Japan Disaster Relief Event

 

Mythos Closed Beta Update

Mythos Closed Beta Update

 

This is what Mythos fans across Europe have been waiting for with bated breath: since yesterday the Hack’n'Slash MMO is available in multiple language versions!

 

You can now butcher away to your heart’s content in English, German, French, Polish and Turkish – just don’t forget to keep your cleaver sharpened.

 

Mythos Europe Closed Beta

The update also brings other new things to the table: the user interface and feature menus are more streamlined and better than ever, and game balancing has been readjusted meaning even more Mythos fun. In addition, thanks to a graphical update the world of Uld has some new eye-candy, as well as the always stunning Cyclops.

 

For an overview of all the improvements with a before and after comparison, visit the official website: Mythos Europe

 

When Heroes Clash – DC Universe Online versus Champions Online

When Heroes Clash – DC Universe Online versus Champions Online

By Stephen Boyd, OnRPG Journalist

Champion LogoDCUO Logo

In comic books, there is a long history of misunderstandings between heroes which then lead to fights, which then lead to eventual team-ups to defeat the villain of the peace. The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner had the first of these ‘incidents’ way back in 1941.

Arguments about who would win in a fight, Superman or The Hulk have raged since the introduction of the latter back in the Sixties. These disagreements never come to a head, as the different universes they inhabit (generally) leave their paths uncrossed.

Without a shared villain to team up against (except maybe City of Heroes) these two may have to go in a fight to the finish. But this battle could have looked very different if things had gone as planned.

Cryptic originally held the license for Marvel Universe Online.

 

Look up in the sky! It’s…………..um?

IN DC Universe Online, you fight alongside and are mentored by the biggest of the big guns. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are three of the largest figures in not only comic books but in merchandising and the worlds of television and film. The Defender, Doctor Silverback and Ironclad? Not so much. While these guys are recognisable to those that played the pen and paper role playing game, their mainstream profile is practically zero. But this could have been a very different situation indeed.

When Cryptic started work on the first iteration of this project they were handling an arguably bigger license than DC Comics in the form of Marvel. Marvel Universe Online was cancelled due to license arrangements. After long legal wrangling Marvel eventually took their license back and Cryptic instead bought the IP for the popular pen and paper role-playing game.

 

DCUO License

License: DC Universe Online. DCUO 1 – CO:FFA 0

 

You pays your Money, you takes your chance!!

Subscriptions for MMOs are a tricky topic to handle. For every reason that can be given for subs being applied to MMOs, there is one argument that is used to counter it. PEOPLE LIKE FREE STUFF! As more and more MMOs switch to the free to play model (The Lord of the Rings Online being one of the most recent examples) more and more players are taking the micro transaction route.

DC Universe’s subscription plan has already taken a cut in the Legends pricing program to €27.99 for 3 months as opposed to €15.99 a month. One would have to imagine that Cryptic’s decision to go free to play on Champs was a direct result of the imminent release of DCUO. While I have absolutely no problem in paying a subscription for a well-run MMO, I have an innate distrust of the MT method of gathering payments. It is always seems that the amount of money spent buying items or features for your game piecemeal is more expensive in the long run.

 

Payment: Champions Online: Free For All. DCUO 1 -CC:FFA 1

 

The Look

Graphics in computer games are important. Shocking I know, but it’s a fact. DC Universe looks spectacular. From the moment you leave your base and take start to navigate the game world, the vistas are spectacular and the graphical detail is impressive.

This is only enhanced when your character is a flyer and can take advantage of the huge draw distance allowed by the Unreal engine. Champions Online looks like a Playstation 2 game. While this in itself is not a terrible thing, remember Shadow of the Colossus and God of War were on PS2, compared to DCUO Champs looks like the hot girl’s plain friend at the dance.

 

DCUO Look

Graphical Quality: DC Universe Online. DCUO 2 – CC:FFA 1

 

Time to build us a Hero!

Character creation is one of the elements that makes players invest in an MMO. If you are going to be spending hundreds of hours watching the back of your toon, you want them to at least look cool. When I first started playing DCUO, I heard a lot from fellow players bemoaning the fact that the character creator was extremely limited. The options that are there for your general look are varied, but do not compare to those offered in CO:FFA.

The costume creator in Champs is one of the best I have seen in any game and almost matches up to my favourite Character Creation engine of all time in Smackdown vs Raw. Each costume element in Champs has dozens of variations and the colours can be selected over a five-colour palette.

I have complained about the colour options in my previous DCUO articles, so I won’t go into it in depth here. Another feature which both games are crying out for is available in the pay to play version of Champions Online, and that is power customization. In the full version of Champs, players have the option to both move their power effects, say for energy blasts to emit from your eyes rather than hands, and to change the colour of the power effect. In DCUO all mental powers are purple, for instance. Having the ability to change these power effects would add another level of individuality to your character. If CO:FFA had the power customisation its paid brother had, the point would have gone to it.

 

DCUO Costume

Champions Costume

Customisation: Tie. DCUO 3 – CC:FFA 2

 

Motion denied!

As a superhero, just walking along is not an option. Both Champs and DCUO have multiple movement types to select. In DCUO, your movement type is unlocked after two or three levels. In Champs, you must reach level six before accessing your special moves.

One of the plus points of DCUO is that you feel like a super powered being as soon as your flight, super speed or Acrobatics kick in. In Champs you must wade through the entire starting zone and defeat your first boss before the powers are unlocked.

On the plus side of Champs though, you can combine different movement types to give an individual set to your hero (or villain!)

 

Champions Movement

Movement: Champions Online. DCUO 3 – CC:FFA 3

The Big Picture

Both games have their merits. Both have their drawbacks. The F2P model of Champs is a great option for players that want to try a super hero MMO for no financial commitments. Graphically and storywise, DC outweighs its competitor by a substantial amount. But, as the scoreline above shows, the final tally is a tie. As Sony and Cryptic look at the competition, they must be thinking about what their next move is. At the end of the day, any cross-pollination between the two, and their other rival in City of Heroes, can only benefit us, the players.

I would have liked to have a winner in this contest, but as the scorecard shows, a tie is a tie. Maybe I’ll come back and do the same in a few months and a victor can then be crowned.

“Warstory – Europe in Flames” Starts Second Phase!

“Warstory – Europe in Flames” Starts Second Phase!

First launched in September 2010, “Warstory – Europe in Flames” has hosted over a million battles to date, and has now been updated to version 2.0. This update features brand new officers and special units, dynamic faction moral with new bonuses. All new social features include invite-a-friend-bonuses, clan and buddy list features to help you and your allies advance across Europe even faster. In addition, players are able now to login via Facebook-Connect directly. Moreover, battle balancing has been optimized in collaboration with the community.

 

In “Warstory – Europe in Flames” you fight strategic real time battles all over Europe in a race to be the first to free Berlin with your faction. On the way to your goal you unlock new units, upgrade your forces and build up your officers to mighty leaders. These officers carry powerful special abilities like Blitzkrieg or Airstrike, which you’re using to defeat clever AI opponents. All is overseen by your Commander, who gains hard fought achievements within the wars (seasons) and whom you build up to a virtual legend. Choose between the Western Alliance (US and UK forces) and the Soviet Union, join the fight now and be the first to liberate Europe!

Available in English, German and Russian, “Warstory – Europe in Flames” has seen 7 seasons and more than a million battles since launch and players have spent hundreds of millions of ammunitions, oil and rations in their race to be the first to reach Berlin. If Warstory has sparked your interest then be sure to check out the profile page here!

LOTRO Releases Info On “Echoes of the Dead”

LOTRO Releases Info On “Echoes of the Dead”

 

LOTRO‘s Epic Story Continues with Volume III, Book 3: “Echoes of the Dead” — At the conclusion of Volume III, Book 2: “Ride of the Grey Company,” a great deal of intrigue surrounded the dwarf Nár: what compelled him to speak of the Paths of the Dead when he seems oblivious to everything else? The Rangers have decided to investigate the library at Zudrugund before continuing their journey south.

New Instance Clusters
- Northcotton Farm – 3-player instance featuring two tiers of difficulty with an optional Challenge Mode quest
- The Town of Stoneheight – 3-player instance featuring two tiers of difficulty with an optional Challenge Mode quest
- The Lost Temple – 6-player instance featuring two tiers of difficulty with an optional Challenge Mode quest
- Glacier Fortress – 6-player instance featuring 2 tiers of difficulty with an optional Challenge Mode quest
- Ost Dunhoth – 12-player raid featuring 2 tiers of difficulty with an optional Challenge Mode quest6, two 6-mans and a 12-man raid
- Celebrate the Spring Festival! – The Spring Festival returns to Middle-earth from March 22nd through April 12th.  The world will come together in celebration as the free people of Middle-earth enjoy the season with special decorations, festive costumes and special quests including the return of the Hedge Maze!

 

 

New Skirmishes
Three new skirmishes erupt from the depths of Moria! Beyond the barriers of the 21st Hall, in the knighted gulf of the Deepway, and along the Way of the Smiths, defend the brave dwarves of the Iron Garrison from the hordes of Mazog.

Update 2 also adds updates to the Legendary Items system, UI Improvements, Monster Play and much more!

Rift TV: The Road to a Golden Age

Rift TV: The Road to a Golden Age

 

By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW) – OnRPG Journalist

 

It sneaks up on us from time to time. On an average Saturday after seeing a great movie, you and your friends go on a gaming binge. It gets mundane on its own after a while and your mind starts to wander. It wanders until it reaches a question older than the MMO genre itself.

 

‘Imagine if this game was a movie/live action show?’

 

Of course this is soon laughed off with multiple terrible examples of why not to go there. The Mario Brothers movie, Dwayne Johnson’s Doom, and Street Fighter to name a few.

Trion Rift SyFy

But as long as your inner child can fight off the pessimistic MMO gamer mindset, you just cannot help but imagine the possibilities this combination still holds if done right. Trion Worlds founder, Lars Buttler, believes he has the magic formula to finally make it a reality. He intends to form a television series that incorporates major events occurring within the Trion Rifts world into the weekly televised episode. Think of it as Riot Game’s League of Legends weekly ‘Journal of Justice’ being televised on a national cable television network. The first thought that came to my mind is “this has to be ludicrous fiction”.

Fiction Becomes Reality: The Partnership with SyFy

Lars Buttler has looked back on these movie failures and seen the core trend connecting one failure after another. The first and foremost problem with all these gaming based movies is compressing the large amount of content available in a 50+ hour content game into a 2 hour movie. He realizes the futility of this and has instead opted for a live action television series spanning multiple seasons to bring the gaming world in its fullest to the small screen.

 

Of course it would take a radical television network to take on such a strange and risky proposition. That is where NBC Universal’s recently reorganized SyFy Channel comes into play. SyFy, famous for its wildly unorthodox original series and Science Fiction B movies, has the in-house staff and technology to bring the alien races, fantastical creatures, and world destroying portals of Rift to life.

 

But do not expect this to be a bland thrown together project to pass for another month of content on the SyFy network. Dave Howe, president of SyFy Network, has been quoted calling this project “The Holy Grail.” Mr. Howe has put his money where his mouth is and pressed a rumored $25 million budget into making this series a reality.

Rifts Ahead: The Rocky Road to Reality

So Lars Buttler has the funds and the vision to make this show a resounding success. But can his team actually build the Holy Grail that Hollywood has failed to create for 20 years?

Trion Rift SyFy

To be blunt, it is doubtful. There are already rumors of culture clashes between the Trion Worlds team and SyFy writers about the creation of this combined world. On one side you have the game designers behind the monumental production of Rifts, dedicating themselves day and night towards perfecting a believable world that can capture the hearts and minds of thousands of players for an extended period of time. These men and women have an unwavering vision of what the Rift world is supposed to be and will attack like savage fan boys if you cross their pre-written rules of the Rift Universe.

 

On the other side of the spectrum are the screen writers and accountants of the SyFy Network. They have been trained to build a series around lead characters with the world and environment they live in coming in as a secondary function to help build upon these characters. These professionals are normally bound by the limitations of budget and the talent and degree of actors they can acquire to populate their televised world. Add to it the limitations brought on by being bound to the rules set by Trion’s game designers and NBC’s profit expectations, and you have enough pressure to form diamonds out of coal.

Trion Rift SyFy

This problem becomes even more troublesome when it comes to attracting your player base to this televised experiment. They will want to see a noticeable difference in the television show based on the changes in game. They will want to see how their organizations are impacting the series to be able to point and say, ‘Yes, that was us. We caused this.’

 

Now take into consideration the sheer impossibility that this can happen. Maybe if the entire Rift game was featured on one server with a small community base, you could provide such an experience. However, Rift’s immensely successful launch has resulted in 58 North American and 41 European servers (as of February 28), most of which remaining heavily populated at peak hours.

 

There is simply no feasible way more than a handful of players’ efforts can be featured to cause a noticeable difference in the weekly televised Rift series when presented with this scale. Though if done correctly, it may create room for community competitions and events tied in with the televised series. This is just one of the many tight ropes Trion and SyFy must walk in the coming months.

Gamer vs Geek: The Rift Gap

Beyond the technical points covered thus far. There is one grand issue to rule them all.

 

If you are a truly dedicated MMO player, you put a lot of time into your games. If you put a lot of time into your games, you will surely have less time for other things in your life.

Trion Rift SyFy

One of those time wasters is television. So this televised show would fall short of capturing the attention of the most hardcore gamers. Watch Rift on tv? I have gear to farm!

 

On the opposite spectrum, a less hardcore gamer is in most cases going to have less interest in the content provided by Rift. So when offered the chance to experience their part-time gaming hobby on television, the results are likely going to be less than stellar.

 

Even greater difficulties arise when luring in your average SyFy viewer to buffer the required audience enough to prevent an early cancellation. In this case you cannot just point at how successful the video game is and expect these geeky television watchers to instantly jump on the band wagon. If anything they will be skeptical. This does not come from a famous fiction writer. In the worst case scenario, it might even be labeled as a cheap advertising tie in and shunned by the community at large. Danger lurks on all horizons for Rift.

Trion Rift SyFy

The Light at the End of the Worm Hole

By now a dreary picture has been painted of the success for this wild Rift project. But still my inner child hopes beyond hope that this could be a success. In recent years many gamers have given up hope that a nearly flawless bug free MMO launch could exist. Trion Rift has come out strong and broken this preconception with the launch of their game. If there is any company I have faith in right now to break the norm and achieve the impossible, it is Trion.

 

The light at the end of the tunnel may be the simplest solution. What motivates MMO gamers in all things? Fatty loot and epic rewards! What happens when you hide a give-away code to unlock said fatty loot within the televised series of the show, and said fatty loot is more rewarding than an hour of grinding within the game? That’s right, so long as there is limited time to turn in this code, you will get an audience looking to find it. Now say Syfy hits the mark and the audience likes what they see? You just might get people tuning in regularly instead of searching Rift fansites to obtain that code. Especially if they make the obvious connection that gamers like to watch TV on the Internet, when their raid schedule permits it.

 

And you never know. This glorious union might catch a geek or two outside of the gaming realm who asks the question ‘This show is so cool. Imagine if it was a game?’