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MMOG Screenshot The online worlds of multiplayer games are spawning a new sideline.  It seems that players who start flirting with each other while participating for hours on end in these virtual reality environments are meeting offline and continuing the relationships, leading to a “marriage” of like minds—that of gamers in love.

Take the case of Mark Brown, who says he searched for Ms. Right in all the usual places, but instead met her online while playing “City of Heroes,” a massively multiplayer online game. MMOG players tend to imbue their online characters with remnants of their offline personalities, so it’s possible to “meet” a character while playing online and hit it off with both the virtual entity and the real person controlling it. Avid gamers who have met their virtual mates sometimes stage in-game weddings, and these virtual nuptials often precede the offline equivalent.

It brings new meaning to the phrase “the family that plays together stays together.”


Read More | Wall Street Journal (Registration required)

Gallery: When Life Imitates VR: Finding Love in Online Gaming


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ChocoboDevelopers at Square recently dropped some details on the new Chocobo breeding feature in an update on the official site for Final Fantasy XI. Chocobo breeding was announced as a part of the recent expansion pack, The Treasures of Aht Urghan, but the functionality was not in place at launch. Instead, the feature will become available in a soon to be released version update for expansion owners. The feature is billed as an upgraded form of the gardening functionality, and should allow both dedicated and casual players to try and raise a Chocabo; according to the website, the player “can raise a chocobo by taking care of it for a minimal amount of time each day over a span of roughly 1-3 months…” Player’s must first find a Chocobo egg to access the feature, and each egg will apparently have its own unique DNA that will control how the Chocobo develops. Eventually, gamers successful at raising their Chocobo will be able to match up with other players and breed new animals, allowing for more varieties and development.


Read More | PlayOnline.com

Gallery: Square Previews Chocobo Breeding in Final Fantasy XI


Phantasy Star OnlinePSO-World has managed to grab an interview with Takao Miyoshi, producer of the upcoming update in the Phantasy Star Online series, Phantasy Star Universe. While the sequel promises that everything in the game will be bigger and better than before, the biggest development will be the new offline gameplay, featuring a more well-developed storyline that should offer hours of single user play, much more than has previously been offered in the past. Also briefly discussed were the new racial abilities integrated into the game, and the new vehicles like player-controlled fire-breathing dinosaurs. In terms of the online world, the old lobby system will be replaced by larger in-game worlds, that can host up to 1000 people. The segregation of the PS2/PC users and the Xbox 360 users was also touched on, and interestingly, the final decision on splitting the game servers has not been set yet; hopefully, all PSU users will be able to play in the same server environment. No Wii or PS3 support is currently in the cards, but from the interview, it sounds like this may still be a possibility, leveraging the special controllers for both. Phantasy Star Universe should ship in the US in the latter half of 2006.


Read More | PSO-World.com

Gallery: Phantasy Star Universe Interview Online


Burning Crusade

Gamespot today published a new Q&A with Jeff Kaplan, lead designer on World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade. The Draenei were officially announced as the new race in the expansion pack during E3, and today Jeff fills in anxious gamers on some details with other content going into the expansion, including how gamers will access the new content in the Outlands. A new profession, jewel crafting, will also be introduced, along with a slew of new items to support the gems created through the new skill. Also discussed are the new main game content, like new armor items, and the Scourge invasion scheduled to drop with version 1.11 of the World of Warcraft client, and the new flying mounts. Kaplan also confirms that the client is built so that the graphic engine can be updated, paving the way for Windows Vista and Direct X 10.


Read More | GameSpot

Gallery: New World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Q&A


Draenei

The new Alliance race in World of Warcraft will be the Draenei, according to reports in the New York Times. While the Blood Elf race joining the Horde was announced quite a while ago, there has been a lot of secrecy around the new Alliance races. The Times also features a Q&A with lead designer for Burning Crusade, Jeff Kaplan. At this time, the Draenei players will be able to choose to be either the warrior, priest, paladin, mage or hunter classes, and there will be new entry points for the new races as well. In the interview with Kaplan, things like changes to flight paths and item distribution and content development are discussed, and screenshots and trailers are available for download. The Burning Crusade is targeted to be available in late 2006.

Read More | New York Times

Gallery: Draenei Join Blood Elves in Burning Crusade


VanguardThe latest MMORPG to gestate at Microsoft Games, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is now to be published by Sony Online Entertainment. Sigil Games, in a press release, announced that they are re-acquiring the rights to Vanguard and will co-publish the game with SOE. Interestingly, the original partnership was seen as somewhat of a coup for Microsoft, getting a new MMORPG designed by one of the originators of Everquest for SOE, and now it looks as if the title will be moving back into the Sony Online fold after all.

Microsoft’s history with massively-multiplayer games has not been that great; after Asheron’s Call, there have not been any real successes to speak of. Asheron’s Call 2 closed its servers in 2005, and another title, Mythica, was cancelled to devote more resources to Vanguard. Now, the title has moved on once again, and it is unclear at this time if Microsoft will tackle another massively-multiplayer title any time soon.

Sigil has posted a brief Q&A giving some answers to questions gamers may have at this point, and the full press release is included after the jump.

Click to continue reading MMORPG Vanguard Leaves Microsoft, Lands at Sony

Gallery: MMORPG Vanguard Leaves Microsoft, Lands at Sony


Phantasy Star Universe

Sega announced today that the latest game in the Phantasy Star series, Phantasy Star Universe will be available this Fall for the Xbox 360, as well as the previously announced PS2 and PC versions. The press release drops a few more details about the game, including what appears to be a solo mode with a more fully developed story than the previous versions. No word on whether PC, PS2, and Xbox 360 users will be able to play against each other, and it looks like the new release still won’t have a large persistent world, but will rather follow the meet up and mission structure of the previous games.

Full Press Release after the jump.

Click to continue reading Sega Announces Phantasy Star Universe for Xbox 360

Gallery: Sega Announces Phantasy Star Universe for Xbox 360


World of WarcraftBlizzard announced today on the World of Warcraft homepage that since patch 1.10 was released, 5400 accounts have been banned, and 10,700 have been suspended for violating the WoW terms of use, including using third-party applications to farm items and gold. Gold and item farming have been an issue in most of the MMORPGs on the market, with users trading virtual items and characters for real money since the first online RPGs hit, but Blizzard has tried to be aggressive in stopping this. How effective these actions will be will remain to be seen, as most of the large-scale gold-farming sweatshops are probably already generating new accounts.


Read More | WorldOfWarcraft.com

Gallery: World of Warcraft: 5400 Accounts Banned


GameDaily.Biz has an interview with the CEO of the new incarnation of Acclaim, Howard Marks. Previously, it was announced that after Acclaim’s demise, the name would live on in a new company specializing in online games. GameDaily.Biz and Howard Marks discuss strategy, and the types of games that Acclaim wants to bring to the marketplace, and the challenges of online gaming.

It’s interesting to hear the reasons why Marks wanted the Acclaim brand: “I decided that the Activision brand was very important because it had a lot of emotional value to millions of players… It’s a fabulous brand. Over 200 million people have played games that Acclaim has produced over the years, and my feeling was very strong that people have an emotional attachment to their experiences from when they were playing Acclaim games and they’ll find it equally as fun if not better with our new online games…”

Which games is Marks talking about? The slew of horrendously bad comic book and movie license games Acclaim cranked out in the 90s, like Fantastic Four, and Street Fighter: The Movie? Or quite possibly the worst port of a 2D fighting game on the Saturn with Mortal Kombat II, when the Saturn probably featured the best home conversions of 2D fighting games of the time? I’m guessing that Howard Marks wants gamers to remember Burnout and not the slew of mediocre to poor titles Acclaim foisted on the gaming public in the past.

Read More | Gamedaily.biz

Gallery: Howard Marks on the New Acclaim


Half LifeWe have come to an interesting time in the gaming history - a giant chasm is appearing in the gaming market, one separating the casual and hardcore gaming audiences. While the hardcore gaming market has existed for quite some time now, only recently has the casual gaming market really come into existence - the question being ‘Is there a middle ground?’; is it possible to create a game with a low enough barrier to entry that it can attract the casual gamer, yet keep a hardcore gaming fan interested for hours on end?

Click to continue reading Gaming: Is There A Middle Ground?

Gallery: Gaming: Is There A Middle Ground?


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