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PSU KeyboardAccording to a report by Japan’s Famitsu magazine, Sega of Japan is releasing a USB wireless keyboard for use with Phantasy Star Universe. The branded keyboard will work with both the Playstation 2 and PCs. The keyboard also ships with a “Guidebook for new Guardians” to help users navigate through the online lobbies and a driver disk for PC users. The keyboard will be available on August 31, in time for the Phantasy Star Universe launch. The price has been set at 8190 Yen, or roughly $72.

Interestingly, compatibility with the Xbox 360 was not listed even though the game has been announced for that platform. Given that Xbox 360 gamers playing Final Fantasy XI have found most USB keyboards to work, there shouldn’t be any compatibility issues with the Xbox 360 hardware. The Xbox 360 version of the game might not support keyboard communication at all; it will support chat over Xbox Live. If the Xbox 360 game servers are distinct from the PS2 and PC servers as rumored, keyboard support may not be necessary at all.

In addition to the new wireless keyboard, Sega also announced the availability of Phantasy Star Universe Score and Soundtrack CDs.

Read More | Famitsu


Slipgate IronworksJohn Romero, infamous game developer, has launched the website for his new game development studio. The studio, called Slipgate Ironworks is hiring to fill a few positions for his new “Super Secret” massively multiplayer online game. The company is looking for a couple of artists, a game designer, and a tools developer, suggesting that whatever project Romero is working on is in its infancy. Romero has had a rather checkered past in the game world; his largest successes came while he was at iD software. Games like Doom and Quake really shaped the first person shooter genre. To date, however, he has not achieved anything paralleling his early successes. The most infamous game to bear Romero’s stamp was, of course, Daikatana. After Ion Storm’s collapse, Romero would go on to explore mobile games with Monkeystone Games. This company would later fold. The next high-profile game would be Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows for Midway; Romero left Midway before the game’s release under mysterious circumstances. Now, his latest attempt at a comeback involves massively multiplayer online gaming.

Ultima OnlineWith Electronic Art’s recent acquisition of Mythic, gamers were left wondering what the plans would be for the company moving forward. Mythic is still working on getting their Warhammer online RPG out the door. However, a posting on the Ultima Online website suggests that post Warhammer, the two teams will be working together “to forge Britannia’s future.” Ultima Online is one of the longest running massively multiplayer online worlds, and this year will see its tenth anniversary. The lessons learned from Ultima’s history have helped make the genre what it is today. With the last expansion for Ultima seeing release almost two years ago, it will be interesting to see what the two teams have planned.

Read More | Ultima Online

Uru LiveThe Myst series has had somewhat of a fractured history; the original game sold millions of copies, and really helped usher in the age of the CD-ROM drive. The follow-up, Riven also did well as a sequel, but after that, the series kind of lost its way. While all of the sequels received decent reviews, it seemed gamers were moving away from adventure and puzzle style games to the more immediately gratifying first person shooters. Of the later follow-ups, the only game produced by Cyan was Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and its online component, Uru Live. Uru Live launched without several of its touted features, and the servers were killed only months later. However, Live has received a new lease on life with the announced partnership between Cyan and GameTap. Gamasutra was able to talk with Rand Miller about this development and the Myst franchise in general.

Miller’s comments on online gaming are interesting; he says, “…our plan for Uru was… to continue to stream those ages those pieces on a regular basis so that your adventure never ended.” He follows up by saying, “We look at online gaming different from everyone else does… What people want is content… what people want is new stuff all the time.” How is what Uru Live is doing any different from the additional content placed in other massively multiplayer online RPGs? The pace of the content launches might be faster, but it seems like it would be difficult to maintain that pace.

It’s interesting that GameTap is trying to resurrect the game, but how deep does their commitment run? Uru Live doesn’t seem to be a typical MMORPG, but will their co-operative puzzle solving and community interaction be able to compete with the more action-oriented online games on the market?

Read More | Gamasutra

Inside Second Life American Apparel Store

Mark Wallace over at 3pointD is reporting on one of the first real-world brands to enter the fake-world domain. American Apparel, known mainly for producing sweatshop-free, made in the USA T-shirts and hiring a porn star or two for their marketing campaigns has opened up shop in the virtual world of Second Life. The clothes being sold in the virtual store, much like American Apparel’s real offerings, will include somewhat-revealing, colorful t-shirts and will similarly retail at “high-priced reasonable”. The brand has been receiving some help from the popular in-world brand *PREEN*, created by Aimee Weber.

The store itself has some very cool features. The design and layout is based on the hip, minimalist glass-box style of the American Apparel Tokyo store and features lighting that is scripted to change with the time of day. Inside the store, you’ll find familiar touches including rows of brightly-colored t-shirts displayed in the colors of the rainbow on industrial steel racks.

We’ll have to see whether brand recognition alone is enough to propel AA to the top of the Second Life economy. For a community that thrives on out-there clothing designs, AA’s minimalist duds would seem to be out-of-place. And it’s hard to hold the moral high-ground for sweatshop free clothing when you’re clothes don’t even have to be produced. Still, a lot of their success has come from creative advertising and clever marketing, and those skills may transfer well to the virtual world.

Read More | 3pointD.com

Warhammer Online
Just days after THQ’s statements that it would be foolish to enter the MMORPG market against World of Warcraft, EA announced today that they would be acquiring Mythic Entertainment, publishers and developers of Dark Age of Camelot and developers of the new Warhammer Online massively multiplayer game. While Mythic is no slouch in the industry, their experience combined with EA’s resources makes them much more of a contender at this point. Should the integration process go well, the acquisition will hopefully mean that gamers will see more high-quality online role playing games hit the market.

Full Press Release after the jump.


Click to continue reading EA To Purchase Mythic Entertainment

World of WarcraftBlizzard has made available the latest content update and software patch release for World of Warcraft today. The new patch brings the client version up to 1.11.0 and has several significant changes. Leading the new content is a new 40-man raid available from the Plaguelands, called Naxxramas, which promises to be one of the most challenging raids to date. In addition, there are a number of functionality tweaks and updates, including new key ring functionality, an adjustment to some of the material item stacks, and a re-categorization of consumables in the game. Flight paths have been updated in the new release, with new flight paths at Ratchet and Marshall’s Refuge, and there are a number of new paths between endpoints throughout the game. In conjunction with the new raid content in the Plaguelands, the Light’s Hope Chapel has been upgraded to a full quest hub- with an inn, new vendors, and a bunch of new quests. Other raid and dungeon instances have been tweaked as well. There are also a number of changes to various classes, with the biggest changes being made to the Shaman and Mage classes, but most classes should see some alteration of their talents in the upgrade.

For those who prefer to download the patch, rather than use Blizzard’s downloader utility, there are a number of mirrors, including 3dgamers and FilePlanet:


Read More | Patch Notes at 3dgamers.com

Creating Kaos Creating Kaos, an online reality-based video documentary series, will go live today on Games.net. The documentary follows the life of Damon Grow, CEO of Shattered Reality Interactive, Inc., located in San Francisco. Grow, whose game development company employs all volunteers, hopes to create the largest MMORPG, and wrest the crown from the current title holder, World of Warcraft. Although he faces huge obstacles and undergoes some difficult events, Grows optimism and dedication doesn’t waver. Watch his story unfold in this weekly series. Each Friday a new episode of the documentary will be made available on the Games.net website. Five episodes are completed and another 15 are in production.

Read More | TMCnet

In a recent presentation to Wall Street, a Vivendi Universal Games representative made a rather shocking announcement, stating that in the future, “All Blizzard franchises will become MMOGs.” The representative claimed that they now have a model in place to develop a Massively Multiplayer Online Game in 3 years for $50 million, as opposed to the 4 1/2 year development time and similar cost of World of Warcraft. The presentation later went on to explain Vivendi’s new two tier strategy for their on-line titles - short session (2 hours or less) on-line games such as the upcoming FreeStyle (an on-line basketball title scheduled for 2007) and long session games (more than 2 hours), which titles such as World of Warcraft most likely fall into.

Various message boards were quickly set ablaze with both regalement and anger. While some people lamented the loss of a true Starcraft sequel, others welcomed the prospect of a Starcraft themed MMO (can anyone say Galaxy of Starcraft?)

Speculation was quickly put to rest however, as a Blizzard representative had this to say on the official World of Warcraft forum:

Nothing in that rumor is true in regards to Blizzard. If I had to guess, there was some confusion between what Vivendi has planned for its its game division versus what Blizzard has planned. While Blizzard is owned by Vivendi, their game division operates seperately from Blizzard.


While comforting to hear for the time being, could this be a sign of internal conflict between Blizzard and Vivendi?

Read More | F13

World of WarcraftThis week proved to be a bad week for gold farmers. Blizzard first announced that they have closed over 30,000 accounts in their MMORPG, World of Warcraft. Along with these accounts, over 30 million in gold was removed from affected in game economies. Square Enix followed up with a statement saying that, following an in depth investigation, they have removed 250 accounts that were participating in what they call “Real Money Trading” or RMT in their online game Final Fantasy XI. Square’s instance was a little different, in that the traders in Final Fantasy were more heavily using item and gold duping hacks to gain vast amounts of the in-game currency, gil. Over 250 billion gil was removed from the Final Fantasy servers in this operation. Given the resources available to gold farmers, it is doubtful that these measures will have a lasting affect on the RPGs, but do make for a good show of faith from both Square and Blizzard.

Read More | World of Warcraft Forums
Read More | PlayOnline.com