30 Days: End Game

30 07 2009

Deep In Thoughtby xeroxeroxero

30 Days have passed since I first started playing Free Realms, and it’s been an enlightening experience. I’ve met and interacted with humans, fairies, dwarves, giants, crab people, goblins, some with a living breathing person on the other end of the connection, others simply pre-programmed automatons. It is the community that makes or breaks a game with any social aspect, so in the last part of this month long series of articles, what have I learnt from the people that go to make this world what it is?

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30 Days: Cartography, Constants and Collectibles

23 07 2009

World Map

by xeroxeroxero

Part of the reason I have steered so very clear of MMO titles in the past is for reasons pertaining to my psychological make up. You see, I’m the kind of person with a ‘collector’ mentality and when I get into a game I really like, I have to see everything it has to offer. Trading cards and Tony Hawks 3 have both been major drains on my spare time and income in the past, and when you combine elements of both play and collectibility into an online social world like Free Realms, for me, its a recipe for disaster… Read the rest of this entry »





30 Days: Caught In The Net Of Free Realms

16 07 2009

Free Realms - Hookby xeroxeroxero

After last weeks fiasco at attempting to socialise with other virtual human beings in the pastel coloured world of Free Realms, I decided this week to focus on trying out some of the job systems that the game has to offer, from fighting to farming, mining to motor car racing, in an effort to better understand the economy of this strange new world and, moreover, the mechanics of play that go to keep people hooked to the experience. Read the rest of this entry »





30 Days: Super Pwn Me!

8 07 2009
2 days into the 30 day time limit I have afforded myself for this social gaming experiment, and after much deliberation and suggestion from the community, I decided I would commit myself to Free Realms, the free to play MMO from Sony Online Entertainment. For those that aren’t aware of FR, it just celebrated it’s 4 millionth player registration and is described by the sagely Uncle_Fista as “WOW-lite”, an MMO aimed at the casual audience that requires a small download, a decent enough broadband connection, and a tolerance for cutesy aesthetics. It’s also planned to be one of a few online RPGs to get a console launch later in the year when it comes to the Playstation 3, and this is partly why I was interested in playing it. I figured that it would provide a lighter approach to the whole experience, skewed towards a streamlined style of play that a console could deal with. Perfect for a self confessed newbie. With this decision made, I logged onto the site and signed up.
But before I could start my adventure I had three, extremely important decisions to make. One; was I to play as a human or a fairy? Going with my gut instincts and trying my hardest not to suggest to anyone I was some sort of sexual deviant, I went with human. Question two; would I be male, or female? Admittedly the thought did cross my mind to play as the fairer sex, I was going to be staring at the back of my characters head for most of my game time, so it might as well have been an attractive one. But as this is a ‘role playing’ game, I decided to play the role I was most intimate with, myself. A male then. Lastly; what was I going to wear? This was perhaps the hardest question, as the options were limited, but I didn’t want to look a mess. Opting for a casual, yet smart brown shirt, and some very fetching black trousers, I hit the Go button, and Xero and virtual Xero were away.
Taking my first step onto this virgin soil a single phrase entered my mind; to shout “Hello World” at the top of my digital voice! Of course, there was no time for that, I had quests to do, and besides, I hadn’t been ‘taught’ how to speak yet. So mutely I crept forward, taking in the sims-ish animated quality that the world of Free Realms has to offer. Its not a pretty game, for sure, from jagged landscapes, to rough character models, patchy animation and incredibly basic lighting, but it has something to it that isnt entirely unpleasant. The palette is very sweet shop, candy floss pink skylines bleed into a gumdrop green landscape, filled with players whose avatars could be based on the latest toys all the rich kids want for Christmas. ‘Twee as fuck’ doesn’t quite cover it then, but like a cutely designed smudge on the wall, while it may bother you at first, once you’re used to it, it doesn’t bother you half as much as you might think, and it quickly becomes second nature.
A few quests in and having learnt some of the basics I would need to survive in this world, chiefly combat, harvesting and haute cuisine, I decided to try some of this ‘socialising’ malarky. Xero, keen to make new pals and add them to his rather conceited ‘list of friends’, approached two characters ingame, furiously chatting away about getting lost on their way to the mines. Both were just a few of the world’s winged inhabitants, bug eyed, and hovering. Perfect, I thought, some strangers online to talk to. So Xero sidled up and said hey, did a little wave and waited for them to converse, because maybe, just maybe, we could all work this problem out together. They didn’t say a single word to him. Rude. Still, having experienced some of the wonderful human beings on Xbox Live, I knew this wasn’t uncommon. Time then, I thought, to turn the charm on. Scouring through my emotes, I found the ‘pose’ option, and swiftly strutted my stuff. This’ll ingratiate me I thought, this’ll make them like me. It didn’t. ‘Fucking fairys’ I moaned. ‘They’re all the bloody same!’ I scowled in probably the only display of ‘rascism’ I’ve ever had.
It was time for the big guns then, and out came the running man dance, the staple of the always loveable Diesel branded wits in Home. And yet nothing. Was there some problem with me? Was I an outcast in an MMO, destined to walk alone, never to feel the cool embrace of digital brotherhood? The answer was a great deal worse than that, as my faith in existing in an entirely alive, intelligent, evolving world was unfounded. I had been conversing with NPCs for fifteen minutes.
Next week, part 3, and my adventure continues in this strange new world. If you get the chance, come and say hello and be part of the journey.

Free Realmsby xeroxeroxero

2 days into the 30 day time limit I have afforded myself for this social gaming experiment, and after much deliberation and suggestion from the community, I decided I would commit myself to Free Realms, the free to play MMO from Sony Online Entertainment. For those that aren’t aware of FR, it just celebrated it’s 4 millionth player registration and is described by the sagely Uncle_Fista as “WOW-lite”, an MMO aimed at the casual audience that requires a small download, a decent enough broadband connection, and a tolerance for cutesy aesthetics. It’s also planned to be one of a few online RPGs to get a console launch later in the year when it comes to the Playstation 3, and this is partly why I was interested in playing it. I figured that it would provide a lighter approach to the whole experience, skewed towards a streamlined style of play that a console could deal with. Perfect for a self confessed newbie. With this decision made, I logged onto the site and signed up. 

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2D Or Not 2D, That Is The Question.

24 06 2009

Street Fighter 4by xeroxeroxero

I’ve said before that games are constrained and often defined by their technological limitations, but I think its clear that the steps in gaming visuals over the last 51 years has been absolutely astounding! From Tennis for Two with it’s green on black on an oscilloscope display, through to the bleeding-edge visuals of Metal Gear Solid 4 on Sony’s latest Playstation; when comparing it to other entertainment mediums, videogames have perhaps shown the highest increase in fidelity over the shortest amount of time. Through just 7 generations of hardware we’ve come from crude monotone squares to fully realised three dimensional worlds in 1080p, but with all of this increase in visual splendour; the competition to model the most realistic environments, convincing facial animations and biggest explosions, are we missing the point entirely?

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PSP to PS3 Connectivity – So much more than just Remote Play

21 06 2009

by Wayne Shayler

ps3-pspI must be one of the only people never to have played Final Fantasy VII, so when Sony announced that it would be coming to the Playstation Store, I knew I would be an early adopter.

My initial response was to download it to my PS3, then play remotely on my PSP whenever the TV was in use.  A ‘Win Win’ situation if you will.  The fact is, I hadn’t entirely thought it through.  I had no idea how great a game Final Fantasy VII really is, even after twelve years, and how much I would become absorbed in the world and the characters.  I’m sure anyone who has played it will lay testament to that.

My ‘Win Win’ situation suddenly turned into a big fat ‘LOSE’.

What if I want to play FFVII when I’m not tethered to a wireless internet connection?

There was only one thing for it.  I would have to pay another £7.99 and download the game directly onto the PSP.

Luckily, the good men and women at Sony are already one step ahead of me, and boy, have they got this one right…

 

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The Death of the PSP.

30 12 2008
psp_slim_003A games platform will always live or die by the software that is available to it, so what is to become of my beloved Playstation Portable.  I recently read a statistic that claimed that Sony’s portable multi-media device only had 100 games developed for it this year, whereas it’s closest rival, the Nintendo DS, gets 100 games every few months. The PS3 sold fewer units this holiday season than they did last year and a standalone Blu-Ray player is now only £150.  These are worrying times for Sony, as well as for me.

I was not an early adopter of the PSP.  Its weak battery life, large size and ridiculous disc based media (the Universal Media Disc or UMD), made it a laughable entry into the portable gaming market.  I could never deny that it was an amazing piece of technology, but just not suited to my needs.  Watch films, listen to music, access to the internet and play games.  It sounds like a dream come true, but when I have other devices that do the same things, only better, why would I need a PSP?

So when, and why, did I have the change of heart?

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