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Featuring:

• Fallen Earth review • Everquest 2 Q & A • EVE Online Q & A • Gaming with a family

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CONTENTS Page 4

Page 12

PerBlue introduces us to the first location-specific MMORPG game for the iPhone and Android

Page 6

SOE continues its quest to bring the gaming world the DC Comics’ Universe

We Are Family — Avid gamer Kurt Sivilich talks about fitting gaming in with the rest of his life, and with small children around

The P.u.G. MMO Magazine Review

Page 8

P.u.G. MMO Magazine talks with Torfi Frans Ólafsson about the recent EVE Online expansion, Dominion

Page 16 Page 22 Page 10 

Six pages of analysis and discussion of the new MMO, Fallen Earth 10 great tips for new Fallen Earth players — avoid the mistakes we made

SOE’s newest EQII expansion goes live Feb. 16. Enter the lands of Odus with Senior Producer Alan Crosby

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Who We Talking About? Rate This... Editorial Editor-in-Chief Joshua Yates Managing Editor Linda Harvey Contributing Writers Brady Grissom, Kurt Sivilich Advertising For more information about advertising in P.u.G. MMO Magazine, or on its website, contact: Linda Harvey (417) 942-1416 | lmharvey@pugmmomagazine.com All contents copyright 2010 by Blank Page, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction or exhibition, in whole or in part, without the express written permission of the publisher is prohibited. All submissions, including, but not limited to, artwork, text, photographs, video, and audio, become property of the publisher. P.u.G. MMO Magazine and Blank Page, LLC, are trademarks of Blank Page, LLC. Sony Online Entertainment, Inc. (SOE), Cryptic, Activision/Blizzard, Icarus Studios, Aventurine, CCP, EA, NCSoft, Funcom, Atari, and Turbine are all trademarks of their respective companies and corporations. All products and characters contained therein are owned by their respective trademark and copyright owners. P.u.G. MMO Magazine does not claim copyright in the screen shots used within the magazine or on its website. Copyright of all screen shots is owned by their respective companies and corporations. Components listed in P.u.G. MMO Magazine are subject to change. Blank Page, LLC, as publisher, assumes no responsibility for any changes. Printed in the United States of America. Distributed Worldwide.

P.u.G. MMO Magazine is a product of Blank Page, LLC. Blank Page, LLC., is devoted to the development and digital distribution of online periodicals. We feed this devotion by creating and offering titles like P.u.G. MMO Magazine and PCOS Magazine - titles that provide value and reliability, and are entertaining at the same time. Blank Page, LLC. 1325 W. Sunshine, #513 Springfield, MO 65807 www.blankpagellc.com | 417-942-1404 Joshua Yates Linda Harvey

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These games are the absolute best that gaming has to offer. They have virtually everything that any gamer could want in an MMO. Flawless in its final execution; practically no errors in any area.

MMOs that achieve this are remarkable. They are the leaders, showing how far the genre has come and where it is headed. Very few technical, graphical, or other errors exist. Smooth gameplay; the controls and UI are both flexible and robust in their options.

These games offer MMO players an allencompassing experience. Design, audio graphics, and most other elements are nearly flawless. The UI is robust, clean, and flexible to meet the needs of each individual user. Fun to play and continue playing into the foreseeable future.

These are set higher and have all of the makings of a great MMO, but are still in need of work. True potential is there. Some errors may diminish fun or prevent a truly all-encompassing experience. Some errors are less glaring than their above-average neighbors.

These MMOs are playable, but not great. There are technical/gameplay issues, but do not prevent the player from accessing and playing the game. Periodic crashes, glitches and flaws with graphics or other elements, and a fair UI, make these games only above average.

Tend to feature grinding for little experience, mindless quests with no apparent meaning, nearly constant audio repetition coupled with ugly, repeated textures and poor or choppy animations. Feature static UIs which allow the user no viable options to change settings, or if they do allow change, it’s restricted. Controls feel sticky and artificial. Camera position is static or hard to move. Below average. Nothing that’s particularly memorable or stellar. They are the kind you try as a free trial, have difficulty installing or loading, and then delete just as quickly. Most features include the same texture reused, with the same sounds, animations, and/or a useless or sub-par UI. Poor MMOs feature lots of bugs. Crashes are common, with floating objects without structure, or invisible, warping creatures and NPCs. Many games are released like this, with players expected to cover the cost of finishing the product. These games tend to fizzle and are like a beta product. Want a broken game with terrible design and art circa the 1990s? This is where you’ll find them. Thankfully, these games are few and far between. Ratings this bad are reserved for games that go live without actually finishing the game. You’ll spend more time getting the game to load than playing. Who needs content when you can reinstall and patch? Graphical anomalies are no problem when you cannot see them to begin with. These are the absolute worst MMOs ever created. For some unfathomable reason, these were actually released—games, if they can even be called that, that feature massive bugs and flaws so bad that they are part of the selling point. Some alternative uses: paperweight, doorstop, coaster. Straight to the recycle bin for these programming marvels.




Parallel Kingdom

A

s if reality isn’t enough now the folks at PerBlue have developed the first location-specific MMORPG. Parallel Kingdom: Age of Emergence is a mobile role-playing and strategy game that takes place in a virtual world on top of the real world. What’s the connection? The GPS system inside your iPhone, iTouch, or Android. “The idea of twisting an MMORPG, adding location components, and making it playable on top of Google Maps was intriguing,” Justin Beck, CEO of PerBlue, said.

Now RPG goes real-time and mobile 

Starting with the iPhone and Android, Beck said PerBlue plans to expand to other platforms in the future. “iPhone and Android has been our focus since we started. Looking back, it

was a very good decision.” “Age of Emergence” is actually the third iteration of Parallel Kingdom. Free to download and play, Age of Emergence follows Age of Exploration and Age of Gathering. “We wanted to build a long-term game, so Parallel Kingdom has been released in Ages,” Beck said. “We really care about our players, their investment, their achievements, and we want to entertain them. We are always looking at how we can make PK better, but building something great takes times.” With Age of Emergence, the game’s developers added a large number of features, including the ability to found and expand cities with other players, Four

new types of dungeons are ready to explore, and players are ranked on a weekly basis in 20 different categories. Game features from the previous “Ages” have also been expanded, with a dozen new buildings, new creatures to hunt, and new items to collect. What makes Parallel Kingdom different is the fact it takes the player’s actual location, using their smartphone’s GPS capabilities, and incorporates that location into the game. On an iPod Touch, the game uses the player’s wifi location rather than GPS. “When we were first coming up with ideas for the mobile game we were going to be building, we realized that with mobile gaming you can do something that just isn’t plausible with

P.u.G. MMO Magazine


regular console or PC gaming,” Beck said. “The idea of twisting an MMORPG, adding location components, and making it played on top of Google Maps was intriguing. So we pursued it. “ Achievement and longevity of the MMORPG game model are two of the major reasons Beck and his colleagues created Parallel Kingdom, in its various iterations. “MMORPGs are fascinating things, really,” Beck said. “In terms of building a long term game, a MMORPG is a natural fit. Players like to be dedicated and play for a long time. The MMORPG genre also has a lot of flexibility, which really enabled us to be able to adapt the genre to include more location components and adapt it to a mobile interface. Parallel Kingdom still remains one of the few real-time MMORPGs on the mobile phone. And once you dig into the multiplayer nature of PK you find a very deep game and a great community. We’re proud of that.”

At top, the foundation of a city is shown. Directly above, players fight trolls. “We ask our players what they like and we listen and adapt,” Beck said about the game’s success.

Parallel Kingdom is also delving into the genre of microtransaction MMORPG games. While the game itself is free to download and play, players can also buy an in-game resource aptly called “food.” Other advanced resources can be bought through the microtransaction process.

most individuals faced with the economy, Beck said the microtransaction model has worked well.

through the Parallel Kingdom website at http://www. parallelkingdom.com/Login.aspx?url=FoodBuy.aspx. Updates are also available “We sell the virtual item through the Parallel King‘food’ in-game. Players can dom website. New content either purchase or trade was added Feb. 1. other items for food. There are about 30 different things Behind the magic of Parinside of the game you can allel Kingdom is PerBlue, spend food on. This enables based out of Madison, WI. many players to play the In addition to the MMORgame for free, but also al- PG game, PerBlue has also lows others to pay money created “Operator Sue” (a for it. It really is the best of group text messaging operboth worlds, players can ator), “Proactive Sleep” (an play for free and it is also a iPhone alarm and sleep diagame that makes money, ry), and “Tempest Chess” (a which means that we can fast-paced, real time stratcontinue to improve it and egy chess game. — Linda Harvey make it better.” Food can be purchased

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Sony Online Entertainment releases new character mod Zatanna as rumors fly about potential release dates, beta DC Universe Online (DCUO) is set to unleash the dynamic comic book art of DC Comics’ Jim Lee with this eventual release into the MMORPG gaming market.

ever, as late as January 28, 2010, SOE continued to release new character mods, including Zatanna (right) and Nightwing (in late November 2009).

Set to be played on both the PC and PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system, DCUO will present to its players a combat system that provides high energy and a fast pace. In development as a partner project between Sony Online Entertainment, DC Comics and Warner Bros., you will be able to create DC-styled super heroes and villains who will battle in a dramatic online, real-time setting with or against their favorite DC Comic characters like SuperMan and Wonder Woman.

Even online fan sites, including DCUO Source is still listing ‘TBA’ for the game’s beta and release.

As a bonus, players will be able to play story-driven adventures penned by some of DC Comics’ most famous writers. Those following various game forums and boards online predicted a 2009 release. As of February 2010, SOE has made no overtures to discuss the actual release of DCUO or any alpha or beta opportunities. How

Will this game be an improvement over similar hero/villain games like City of Heroes or Champions Online? Possibly. It has a lot going for it, once it’s finally released. The art emanating from the DC Comics world coupled with the ability to play with your favorite characters might just be the leg up this game needs over its similar competitors. A DCUO following continues to expand, as the developers are making waves on Facebook and Twitter. On the game’s Facebook page, DC Comics and DCUO fans can download wallpapers, watch DCUO movies, pick up messaging icons, and view concept art. New to the Facebook fan page is a crowdsourcing contest allowing followers to help animate a five-minute short film about the game.

P.u.G. MMO Magazine


A menagerie of some of the heroes and villains you’ll get to fight in DC Universe Online, once released. You may get to group up with the likes of Nightwing, Zatarra, and the Green Lantern.

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EVE Online: Dominion P.uG. MMO Magazine presents a Q&A with EVE Online developers about the Dominion expansion How are you dealing with the competition of upcoming ‘space games’ like the muchtouted ‘Star Trek Online?’’

TFÓ: EVE is a well-established game with a solid fan base. Star Trek Online strikes us as an almost totally different game from EVE, aside from the fact that it is set in space. I’m sure STO will attract a particular group—but by comparing the two we’re not overly concerned that STO will cannibalize the EVE player base. Rather, we expect it will introduce a new generation of players to the concept of MMOs 

and the possibilities they provide, which is great. They have interesting designs in their combat systems and exploration, but at its core the game is so radically different from the single-shard massive economy and vibrant community of EVE Online that we see it more like a new addition to the fauna of MMO games out there, rather than a hostile species, so to speak. What about EVE’s development has led to the success of the Dominion expansion?

TFÓ: In many ways Dominion pulls on the strings

Torfi Frans Ólafsson, EVE Online’s senior producer

of everything that makes EVE, well, “EVE”. Through fundamental changes in the way space itself is held, from alterations to the rules of sovereignty to balancing of capital ships, it brought a fresh infusion to the ruthless 0.0 warfare that makes EVE famous and radiated outward throughout the social structures of New Eden to affect virtually everyone in one way or another. For some it might mean they drop right into a fleet amassing on the other side of their wormhole. For others it might mean the other miners have moved out of your system.

Others might find new opportunities in the long tail of economic supply to fuel the movements of the capital ships. People move around, allegiances shift. Opportunities arise for the bold that might be missed. But these aren’t anything new for EVE. They are the eternal truths of human interaction in the context of a struggle for resources. Dominion just brought them more to the forefront. In development for the expansion, we really took a long look at some of the older systems in EVE. In our

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mental to EVE’s core warfare mechanics once they have an entire world built around them…in some cases being the status quo for over six years.

At top left, the Apocrypha-Amarr Station. Above, the much-touted Raven, the powerhouse of the Caldari Navy. WIth a whopping 6,641 hitpoints, this bad boy packs a whollop with launcher slots and a full contingent of shields.

evaluation and planning for the changes, the experiences our players shared with us were invaluable. Countless Fanfest conversations and panels, more formal meetings with the CSM, monitoring anecdotal experience on our forums—all of these went into the changes and helped us prioritize accordingly. It was clear that fleet warfare needed to evolve past a simple war of attrition versus static objects that heavily favored the defenders. We also needed to put more power in the hands of our players, hence the other changes which, although maybe not the most glamorous, really do make a difference in a game like EVE where the metagame is so incredibly important to every pilot and knowledge is powerful commodity.

Why is Dominion so popular? Has EVE’s user record grown accordingly with other expansions ?

TFÓ: We’ve experienced a pretty large bump this year, accelerating the steady upward growth EVE has experienced throughout its life. In addition, we broke two big milestones after Dominion. First, the 300,000 barrier which had been a goal we’d had our eyes on. When I talk about accelerated growth, we’ve added another 10% past that, to over 330k and blasted past another internal milestone that’s a bit nearer to our roots—the population of Iceland itself. Besting the population of the country of EVE’s headquarters was a special feeling for many of us Icelanders and its kinda neat to mention it when out on the

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town in Reykjavik. Simply put, what’s next after the Dominion expansion?

TFÓ: We’re still iterating a bit on the Dominion changes to make them just right. No matter how much you try to test internally, there’s nothing quite like having 330,000 players determining their own destiny on their own timetables to really test programming and game design. Our next big step will be something we’ve talked about before, specifically at the last EVE Fanfest…planetary interaction. Any unique development challenges presented by the release of Dominion (both after-release, and during development)?

TFÓ: As I said before, it is really difficult to address systems that are so funda-

We enlisted the full gamut of thought power here at CCP though, from our research and statistics teams (to do market analysis) to the community team (for feedback on test server changes). We’ve been working on ways to really simulate fleet battles on our own servers without having 50something thousand people online at once, but that too is…complicated. Will CCP ever incorporate (“walking, talking”) avatars into EVE Online?

TFÓ: Of course, the “Incarna” project has been and still is being worked on. As you can imagine, it’s akin to adding a whole new layer of MMO on top of an existing game. And, really, we’re not going to release it until its ready because we are committed to having it be a true, beautiful extension of EVE itself and live up to the standards we’ve been honing since 2003. We’ve got amazing partners from the gaming industry working on cutting edge stuff with us in symbiotic, envelope shoving ways. When pilots emerge from their ships, it will be a whole new world.




EQII: Sentinel’s Fate SOE’s newest EQII expansion goes live Feb. 16. Enter the lands of Odus with Senior Producer Alan Crosby. P.u.G. MMO Magazine talked with SOE Senior Producer Alan “Brenlo” Crosby about the expansion for Everquest II. Sentinel’s Fate promises to provide vivid gaming for both the new EQII gamer and those at the peak of their game play. Since EQII has now been out for a full five years, what does SOE hope to accomplish with this expansion?

AC: We are always looking to add more for our players to experience and that is what this expansion accomplishes. More creatures, more treasure, more adventure. At the same time we look to get new players, who may not know EQII is out there, are interested and we are working on that 10

as well. With the expansion launch we have new systems going in to streamline the low level experience. We want new players to jump into Norrath and have the best experience possible. How does this improve on the past two expansions?

AC: We listened to feedback from our players and tried to make content that they want to play. We took what they liked and tried modify things they may not have enjoyed as much and incorporated those changes into the expansion. We really hoped to have a

I think I’ll call him ‘Fluffy.’ A new creature of the Vastly Deep Conservatory. As opposed to those creatures from the not-so-deep conservatory.

healthy dose of new, and a reworking of the expected to provide a fun and entertaining experience for our players.

with a creative bunch, like the EQII team, they always want to add more, to tweak and polish and work towards perfection.

What particular development issues did SOE run into with the development of Sentinel’s Fate?

The challenge is reigning in that enthusiasm and drive and keeping everyone working towards the deadline. Fortunately I have a damn fine crew in my Associate Producer, Nick Parkinson, my Project Manager, Har-

AC: As with all things with deadlines, time is always the issue. When you work

P.u.G. MMO Magazine


A smackdown in the Erudin Library.

The Vestigial Cella

Three players fight a monster in the Research Hall, one of the new playable lands of Odus dungeons to be seen in the Sentinel’s Fate expansion.

vey Burgess and the leads who keep everyone on task. How successful has the Station Cash program been, and how will SF affect this program (and vice-versa)?

AC: Station Cash has been very successful and we plan to continue to add new appearance items and convenience items at a steady rate. Sentinel’s Fate doesn’t impact SC at all other than giving us more options for things to present to the marketplace that our players may enjoy. Is there any concern that increasing the level cap and cre-

ating new zones might create a wasteland for the lower-level areas and dungeons?

AC: That is always a concern when a game grows. Players tend to find the fastest path to the high end game and we are conscious of that dynamic. In fact, we embrace it. We are working to get our players on a storyline, that takes them through key areas, on key adventures and brings players into the same regions as they progress. We want to present players with compelling reasons to do the quests they are

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tasked with, by showing how these small tasks fit into a larger picture. At the same time we hope to give them a guided experience, through some of our best content in the game. We are very excited at how the Storyteller system is coming along and phase 1, the quest work is done for the expansion launch. Phase 2, which includes a new interface will come along in a future update. Other games are reinventing their “old” content. Is this something EQII/SOE is considering to do in the future? Can you tell us more of where

EQII/SOE wants the game to go in the future?

AC: SOE and EQII have been doing this for years and will continue to do so in the months ahead. Players can look forward to revamped/ reworked zones in many areas over the coming year. I think you will see more events that have an impact on the world as a whole, as you did recently with the Will of a Tyrant update where the skyline of Freeport was changed forever, when Lucan’s Citadel came crashing to the ground. 11


Kurt Sivilich, an avid MMORPG gamer with a wife, two children, a successful architecture career, three cats, two dogs, and a fledgling career as an author, has to juggle his real life with his online personas. Here, he sits with his daughter, Caroline, in front of Star Wars Galaxies.

Are We A

Family

s most computer gamers know, each person has different amounts of time to allocate to gaming. The amount of time you have typically drops you into one of two groups – the power gamer and the casual gamer. The power gamer is typically younger and not tied down (at all or as much) with everyday obligations. They can devote a lot of (uninterrupted) time to advancing through a game. The casual gamer is just the opposite.

The full definition of these groups is more complex, but these are some of the 12

My online gaming history isn’t as extensive as some people I know, but the games I have played I’ve been committed to. I cut my teeth on The Sims Online (TSO ). There I met a good group of people and we all ended up moving over to Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) in 2003 shortly after release. I played SWG until Sony Online Entertainment introduced the New Game Enhancements (NGE) in 2005, which altered the entire experience (which is an article for another time).

By Kurt Sivilich

characteristics of the type of gamer. Most games are geared toward the power gamer and often leave the casual gamer a bit in the cold, feeling left out or shunned. This article will highlight some of the challenges (obligations) a casual gamer, such as myself, has to deal with and how they evolve and effect game play. First let me introduce myself – I’m a 40 year old married man. My wife and I have two children, ages 21/2 years and six months. I’m a full-time architect and fledgling author. This means

my work hours fluctuate between a typical forty hour work week, up to sixty hours when a project and writing schedules demand it. We own a historic house that we share with our two dogs, three cats, and fish, all of which need care and attention. I’m a Corvette enthusiast and when there is a nice day, we try to get out for a drive. I also am an avid target shooter, and you can find me at the local range from time to time keeping my skills sharp. That said, I’m also an online gamer.

As a result, our little group quit SWG and started playing City of Villains and later added on City of Heroes. Growing curious about some of the rumored improvements, we returned to SWG in 2007, and stayed there until 2009 when we played out the solo and small group content. We then returned to City of Villains / Heroes. At this point you may have a number of questions, such as “What did you do before having kids?” “How do you find the time to play and juggle your responsibilities now?” and “Why do you still play computer games?” You may also have visions of my children crawling around on the floor in soiled diapers, eating out of the dogs dish for nourishment as the dogs are standing at the back door, both sets of legs crossed, standing knee deep in…stuff… quivering with need to hit the back yard for

P.u.G. MMO Magazine


a bathroom break, all while I’m sitting at my computer, banging on a keyboard and yelling obscenities at the monitor, oblivious to the condition of my family, pets or household. Before you start dialing the number for Children Protective Services and PETA, I can assure you that the above scenario is not the case at all. The answers, however, are complicated, but I can assure you that my days of getting out of bed at whenever-o-clock and sitting at my computer for hours at a time, only getting up for bathroom and food breaks, are long gone.

our daughter went down. I would be on “daughter watch” until I went to bed, then my wife would take over since I sleep like a rock and wouldn’t hear the baby crying in the middle of the night. Things slowly evolved and

First, let me be clear; my priorities are, in order: my family (including pets), then work, closely followed by chores and other responsibilities and hobbies fall somewhere after all that. As you can imagine, my online time is limited. To answer the first question, I have always been a casual gamer. My characters have never been the “flavor of the month” nor have I really crunched the numbers to find out the “uber build”. I would spend most of my free time, which was typically from after dinner until about midnight, playing with my friends or running solo until my friends could join me. This all changed once our daughter arrived in 2007. Things were simple at first and didn’t cut into my time online much. I started working part time so I could stay home a few days a week with our daughter. I shifted some of the time I would play after dinner to nap times and would get on later in the evening after

my time was cut more and more. Work demands became greater so I went back to work full time and bedtime became later and later as our daughter became older and required less sleep. Then, along came our son in 2009. Things didn’t change all that much since his arrival since a schedule had already been set with our first child.

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The answer to the second question has already been alluded to above but let’s delve into what my schedule really looks like. My typical day usually starts between Way too Early (for my liking) and 0 Dark Thirty, when my wife finally manages to kick me out of bed to get in the shower. While she gets the kids up, dressed and fed, feeds the cats and fish, and gets our lunches together, I walk the dogs. (Cursing the fact that they won’t go in their own yard on days with bad weather.) Once the kids are ready, we pile into the car as a family, since we usually ride to work together, and drop the kids off at daycare on the way to work. Breakfast for me and my wife is usually at work or on the road. We put in a full day at work, then head home after stopping by the daycare and picking up the kids. Once we get home, we take a little time to catch our breath, change clothes (sometimes there’s no time for that) and let the kids play or watch a video. We try to overlap tasks. While my wife is preparing dinner I will either walk the dogs or watch the kids. If this isn’t done while dinner is being prepared then it gets done

after dinner while our son is being fed. After dinner and the table cleared, it’s time for bath, a short story and then bed time. Our 2 year old likes someone to sit in the room while she falls asleep, so we trade off who sits with her. Once she is asleep or nearly asleep the remainder of the evening is for the adults in the house. This is usually around 9:30 at night. Given that I stay up until around 11, midnight at the maximum, it’s a small window of evening time that’s available. My wife has an even smaller window as she usually goes to bed between 10 and 10:30. So we need games that don’t take a lot of time to get started, have shorter missions, and can be “paused” at a moment’s fuss. To further limit the opportunity to play, my wife and I have set aside Tuesday evenings as “us” time, and Thursday evenings as family night (for when the kids are older, but we want to get the habit of that night being inviolate started while the kids are young.), so weekday play times are 3 evenings a week. Weekend evenings run the same as the weekdays, and weekend days replace work with chores or errands, but sometimes we get the chance to play during nap time. (Bonus!) So this leads to the next question of “Why do I play games”, especially since my time is so limited, and most online games require a subscription fee to play. It’s a common assumption that the limited time isn’t worth the cost to remain connected to that game. That answer gets a little 13


We Are Family, continued more involved. In a nutshell, I play because it helps me decompress after the stress of my day. I get to play with my wife (she’s a gamer too – Bonus!) and stay better connected with friends that literally live scattered all over the country, from Pennsylvania to Missouri, from Chicago to San Rafael. I can have fun with them, have real time conversations with them, work towards common goals with them. It’s like combining e-mail, a board game, and your favorite genre of make-your-own-story book all in the same place. But having limited time does play a role in determining what kind of game you get involved with. Games that require a lot of time seated at the computer don’t work well, since that’s the one thing a gamer in my shoes doesn’t have a ton of. We tend to not get anywhere fast and get frustrated with our lack of progress, not to mention not being able to keep up with the people we play online with.

Also, games that require a lot of set up time don’t work well, since by the time you’ve travelled around the game world get yourself buffed enough to tackle that nasty dungeon, or get your resources in order to craft, it’s time to call it a night and go to bed, or gets interrupted by a short nap or bad dream. Games that require a group of people to advance aren’t the best choice either; if none of your friends are online that night, you’re stuck and if you are in a group you feel bad if you need to run off and deal with one of the kids, either leaving the group after the mission has been set for the number of people in the group or having them sit and wait until you get back. This kind of precludes pick up groups because most aren’t understanding when you need to run off and take care of a child. Content is another consideration, especially when there are little eyes that can walk into your office/

Computer room without a moment’s notice. Do you really want your little one to see a half naked she-elf dancing around a fire, preparing a nasty spell while your overly buff barbarian decapitates dozens of goblins, complete with spurting gore, terrifying screams and tumbling noggins? While some of that may be appealing to a discerning adult, to a 2 year old, it could generate all kinds of nightmares, not to mention uncomfortable questions. It’s kind of nice playing the game I do because according do my daughter I “fight bad guy”. She likes to watch and even wants to help from time to time. I’d rather explain to her that I’ve only defeated the bad guy and he’s going to jail, than explain why I’m blowing someone to smithereens or stealing a car. Chances are that as my family ages and gets involved with other activities, my online life will ebb and flow with my available time and at times may go on hiatus. To be honest, I don’t mind it

all that much –I do miss the days when I could dedicate a chunk of uninterrupted time to game advancement from time to time, but I wouldn’t give up my responsibilities for the world (ok, if I could get paid for writing and gaming I’d give up my job.) I’ve come to realize just how fast the past 2 years have gone and how quick my daughter will grow up, with my son not far behind. Eventually, they’ll be doing their own thing, hanging out with their friends and I’ll have all the time I need to get back into the online world again. Given the amount of games that have been released since my introduction to TSO, it’s not going anywhere. But in the meantime, I’ve found a way to juggle providing and caring for my family, relaxing from a tough day at the office, staying in touch with my friends across the country, all while having fun and playing a game I enjoy. Despite the stereotype, sometimes it’s good to be an online gamer.

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Caroline Sivilich, sitting on her father’s lap, asks about a Star Wars Galaxies character on the screen of Kurt’s computer. Kurt’s careful about gaming around Caroline, but tries to include her in it when appropriate.

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Review

Fallen Earth Icarus Studios’ and Fallen Earth, LLC’s heady post-apocolyptic adventure is good, but needs some refinements, improvement When we first saw Fallen Earth, we were instantly taken by the thought of a post-apocalyptic MMO. Many of us have played the popular single-player postapocalyptic game Fallout 3™ and the thought of that style of world in an MMO excited us. In many ways, Fallen Earth delivers. It set out to combine the style of a freeform classless MMO system with elements of a first person shooter game and it does this well. The advancement system in Fallen Earth is truly classless, allowing players to develop any kind of character they choose. The downfall to this is that there are no respecs allowed at this 16

time. So, when you spend points, they are spent forever. As a result we can say this: Spend wisely and plan ahead. Unlike other games which allow you to experiment with different styles of gameplay within a particular class or archetype, Fallen Earth expects you to choose early and follow one path or level up several characters to try different specializations. Visually, Fallen Earth is immersive and appealing, with great attention paid to minor details in the environment. Fallen Earth uses PhysX for physics rendering, however, the actual use of physics seems negligible with the exception

of corpse behavior. While corpses do have a ragdoll effect when they die, the effect is overplayed and is unrealistic. Additionally, our review team found issues with shadows not rendering properly and major frame rate spikes on all of our testing machines. While the graphics are appealing and immersive, they are not new nor are they spectacular. The graphics set is similar to other dated MMOs (and console games) seen and played in the past. The sounds within Fallen Earth are acceptable and appropriate, facilitating immersion, but stopping at average. The sound clips are repeated constantly,

reminiscent of a CD track or audio file set to repeat, and the “cuteness” of the cursing of the NPCs gets old fast after they repeat the same lines over and over during the first 2-3 levels of play. Many of the NPCs share the same sound clips and therefore nothing stands out between the audio outputs of one NPC to the next. Fallen Earth utilizes a generic interface, nothing spectacular or fresh, but suitable for the task at hand. The interface is partially customizable, with resizing of windows an option and the UI can be modified to change

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Elton John is apparently “still standing” and is in Fallen Earth — and he ain’t a happy camper, despite his festive hat and dual .45-caliber pistols.

Stand still or I’ll garden you within an inch of your life! Potential weapons range from your standard guns to farming implements.

Hoe, hoe, hoe. Bad doggy. No rancid biscuit for you! Farming tools do an amazing amount of melee damage early in the game. Get your hoes and pitchforks!

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You have an array of choices to spend your APs, or ability points. Be careful and mindful of how you spend your attribute points in-game. As of now, there are no respecs available. You choose it, you got it - for good. To increase stats, for instance, it takes 5 APs to level up 1 stat point. Skills increase 1:1. Tradeskills increase as they are used, so craft away.

the skin color to one of several presets provided within the game. The features and textures, however, are unchanged. They are now just in a different color. The crafting menus and inventory display offer some sorting to assist with navigating the plethora of recipes, but the filtering and sorting are inadequate due to the inability to filter known and unknown recipes, lack of bank and inventory cataloging, and the inability to see what materials are available and where for 18

your next build on the crafting agenda. The clan management interface is bland and somewhat dated, and the ability to right click on items and players to interact can at times be a nightmare. The ability to kick players from the right click can be a nuisance, leading to accidental removal of clan mates. The same issues exist with inventory management for mounts and vaults. The inability to move items, in bulk, to and from bag spaces can easily lead to accidental

deletion if careful attention is not given. Fallen Earth does allow for some customization of characters on the fly during play. Issues with movement of items from one vault to another (or lack of ability to do so without first moving them to your inventory, which is already weight and space limited) is a serious problem. Jackets can be opened or closed and hairstyles can be changed with a simple right-click on your avatar. On a side note, this rightclick interface also allows

for UI window transparency and visibility changes, and seems out of place and clunky. The command line bars allow for easy expansion to add more ability bars, but the inability to separate these bars from the “chunk� in the center, or to resize them was an annoyance for our entire review team. Fallen Earth utilizes a first person shooter-styled combat interface. Combat within the game is managed by tabbing into combat mode to acquire a targeting reticule and using right

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Dual wielding can range from zip guns (essentially, glorified paint-ball guns which fire ball bearings, as seen above) to pistols that do serious damage.

ing through them, bullets appear to impact as though it were made of solid rock. A bullet does not normally stop at a glass window, nor do they stop at a chain-link fence, and so while one can see through them, one cannot shoot through them. This detracts from the realism and immersion and was a consistent annoyance for our entire review team.

those above the cap for the zone down to the intended level of the zone. Do the opposite for higher level zones. Increase the level of those who are below the range to some predetermined minimum. Do penalize or provide bonuses in terms of weapons or armor use, simply that they will have the same basic stat bonuses as their counterparts. This may be difficult given the organic nature of character development in Fallen Earth, but it is one idea to consider and has been done successfully before in other MMOs.

enjoyed seeing a more detailed hit placement system to allow for incapacitation through arm strikes to disarm or disable, leg strikes to immobilize or slow, as well as stuns, knockdowns, and knockbacks from other strike locations.

The PvP aspect of Fallen Earth has great potential but is still in its infancy. There is a question of fairness within the current antigriefing mechanic which penalizes higher level players with major stat debuffs for killing lower level combatants. It is not that our reviewers prefer one-sided combat (higher levels vs lower levels), but that lower level characters could essentially be used as bait or with the express purpose of debuffing higher level players intentionally. Some of us witnessed this sort of issue first-hand in the PvP zones with players abusing this mechanic to ambush and neuter other players.

Another major issue with combat deals with transparent or translucent objects, such as windows and chainlink fences. When shooting at them, rather than pass-

One potential suggestion to remedy this would be to adjust players based on the level of the PvP zone itself. If the zone is low level, automatically reduce the level of

While the crafting recipes in-game are plentiful, the crafting interface needs some refinement. Filtering could be improved to alleviate confusion.

and left mouse clicks to fire weapons or to swing melee weapons. The individual animations for combat are simplistic, with little variation from one melee attack to the next. Fallen Earth does utilize a rudimentary form of hit placement, with headshots providing an increased damage; however, there are no additional bonuses for well placed strikes to other body locations. While the headshots are nice, we would have

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Fallen Earth offers a huge variety of weapons to perform the job at hand. These vary from knives, clubs, pistols, shotguns, and rifles (to name a few) to items like signposts and barbells. There are also acids, poisons, and grenades currently available within the game as thrown weapons, and while our experimentation with them proved they are very viable, some are also broken. Some of the thrown weapons have problems where they ignore global cooldowns, and are difficult to aim and determine the trajectory for. Fallen Earth has an inter19


I wonder if they’ll ticket you for running this light? I hate stoplights in pre-apocolyptic Earth, and they’re just as big a pain in Fallen Earth. I think I’ll shoot it.

esting community of players. When you first login and create your character, you are placed in a global help channel with almost instant access to help to get you started in your adventures within the wasteland. There is (almost always) at least one GM (Game Master, or an in-game Customer Service Representative, essentially) available to assist with major issues a player may experience. The player community within the game tends to be helpful as well. While Fallen Earth does have a character and clan name policy in writing listed on their forums, our initial discovery upon logging into the game was a wide array of thoughtless, distasteful, and outright blatant disregard for the 20

policy by many players. The lack of name verification on character creation leaves this task to the player base and the GMs online to enforce. Our overall impressions of the allowed names left much to be desired, and the lack of creativity and outright copyright violations by some of the players and clans created a non-immersive and distracting environment within the post apocalyptic setting. Many of the names we continued to see consistently were distasteful sexual or drug references, or blatant copyright violations. This can be seen by the name of one of the largest nuisance clans we encountered within the game and

its name, which was a direct copy of that of a popular antagonist from recent network television series. The social aspect within Fallen Earth is still in its infancy. The new implementation of the bunker bars for gambling as well as several player organized events show promise for this area of the game to grow. Those aside, overall, the social aspect of Fallen Earth still seemed lackluster. There are several instanced areas within the game which require a small, wellorganized group of players to successfully complete, but for a post-apocalyptic setting, the lack of player interaction on a global scale seemed missing. Almost every quest or content ap-

peared designed for the player to do solo. That may work for a single-player game, but for an MMO, there needs to be a balance of solo and small group content to best facilitate player interaction, while allowing for advancement alone. Fallen Earth, from our experiences, seemed to be lacking on any drive or incentive to really group for any of the content. Grouping resulted in half of the reward, half of the loot, and generally double the time needed to accomplish the same objective solo. Fallen Earth relies predominantly on the game’s expansive crafting system to outfit and equip players for and throughout their wasteland journey. Almost all items

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available in the game are crafted in real time, some of which can take days (yes, full 24-hour days) to complete. The high reliance on the crafting system also places a very high demand on resource harvesting, and little demand on currency within the game. As of writing this review, the game’s auction house was still sparsely populated, and there is no discernible market driven economy as of yet. Mobs within the game have a chance to drop items which can be sold to NPCs or players, but the only way to make money (chips) in the game is from quest rewards, gambling, or selling items and resources at auction or to vendors. Mobs within the game do not generally drop any currency (and if they do, it is usually very little), therefore, earning enough to train necessary skill upgrades or crafting recipes can be a quest within itself. Fallen Earth is a fun game with promise, but overall seems rushed to the market. The staff on Fallen Earth has been working hard at polish-

ing the game and optimizing the performance of the client. Recent upgrades to the game (scrub and flora, for example) are good, but other major issues remain. The framerate spikes when entering major towns severely hurt playability from our perspective. As a player, we should not have to lower our graphical settings to minimum any time we enter a city to avoid framerate drops from 80 (outside town) to 5 or 10 fps within the city. That is absurd and is an issue that should have been addressed prior to launch. As the overall number of players increases, this problem gets worse. Overall, our review team felt that Fallen Earth was a decent game, but still needs work to be where we feel it should be. Although the texture quality was generally good, we felt that for immersion in the post-apocalyptic genre a greater variety of textures, and colors beyond brown, dull green, and grey need to be present when one looks out across the wasteland.

Saying “there’s still room in my bag” in Fallen Earth is like telling your bank “but I still have checks” even when your account is overdrawn.

Moving to a first-person perspective provides a retro feel with hands (and weapons) floating in front of the player (at the bottom of the screen) as though we were playing any number of classic shooter games. Restricting the UI to only resizing and stock color options is a mistake, given the

Ratings Subscores Presentation

Gameplay

Graphics

Performance

UI

Social

Sound www.pugmmomagazine.com

Fun

flexibility of the UI among competitors’’ titles. Every gamer prefers their own UI setup, and we felt that the UI in Fallen Earth was too restrictive and felt clunky. Final word: Fallen Earth is still new, but needs a lot of work. —Brady Grissom, with contributions by Joshua Yates

OVERALL: Learn more about Fallen Earth at:

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TipforSheet new players Anyone who is first starting out in any game always has questions. How do I do this? Where do I get that? For many of us, exploring the game and learning where to acquire various items and how to use them is part of the excitement.

on can serve as a permanent penalty for the entire duration we play that character. In many cases, those lessons are only learned later in that character’s career.

#1: Spend your AP wisely. Plan ahead and try and determine what kind of playstyle you prefer before you spend points. You start out with each weapon type (pistols, rifles, one handed weapons and two handed weapons). They are in your inventory; you will have to equip them once you enter the LifeNet station at the city of your choice after the tutorial. Experiment and try out each weapon type. See what works best.

terms of skills and stats. Learn which stats apply to those skills you will need for that character type and train those stats and skills.

To help alleviate this ugly potential scenario, the staff at P.u.G. MMO Magazine has compiled However, what is not this list of tips and sugfun is learning that the gestions for starting out mistakes we made early in Fallen Earth.

Furthermore, ask yourself what kind of character you want to be: A crafter, a combatant, or support. Each has very different needs in 22

Crafting does not require you to spend AP to raise each type, simply craft and they will go up. Stats do factor in when determining how high you can increase crafting ability with each particular crafting skill type (Ballistics, Armorcraft, etc) #2: Train skills, then stats. Stat increases are important, as they increase your maximum skill training, however, if you aren’t already at the max for the

skills you have then additional points into the stat will not be particularly useful for you. Train your skills up first, and then increase stats. Stats cost more AP to train, so plan ahead and save enough AP to train them when you need to. #3: Crafted gear is better than loot and quest gear. The vast majority of your best equipment is crafted, but be careful when you look at any item. Just because it requires a higher skill to use or make does not always make it better. It may be

faster on the reload or fire rate (in the case of a pistol or rifle), but how is its damage? If it does less damage, but fires faster, it may end up costing more for ammo than the weapon is worth. Determine for yourself if this is the case and which weapons you want to use. #4: Repair! Always ensure you have repair kits. Your equipment takes damage from use and you will need to repair it. Keep that pitchfork repaired or you may end up without a weapon.

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#5: Use your bank and horse for storage. Let’s face it; one can only carry so many chunks of copper and scraps of cotton before they just cannot carry any more. You will have a very limited amount of inventory space and are very restricted on how much you can carry at any one time in terms of weight, so make judicious use of your sector and barter vaults. If you have enough faction with the Bankers, you can access the VIP vaults in certain cities. Likewise, if you are in a clan and have access, each of those banks has a clan tab for additional storage. Better horses and vehicles feature additional storage slots, so get that improved riding horse as soon as possible. #6: Get a better horse. Everyone who does the tutorial and the initial quests

will get access to a basic starter horse. This horse does not have a lot of inventory slots, nor is it efficient to ride. This means you will have to feed it quite often. Feed is expensive to buy, so the best option is to get a better horse. Our suggestion is the Riding Horse or the Improved Riding Horse. Any lower level crafter should be able to make it for you if you have the materials, or you can make it yourself. It is a good investment to make as early as you can. #7: Do as many quests as possible, in every town. When you first start, the town you start in will have a series of quests that you can complete. However, you aren’t limited to just that town. Every town has more quests, so you can mix and match and do quests everywhere in the lower portion

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of Sector 1. Also, you can acquire crafting books from quests, so save your chips and quest for them. #8: Harvest, harvest, did we mention harvest? As you level up, you will find that you need materials to make ammo, armor, weapons, just about everything you need to survive the wasteland. Best solution? Harvest everything. Spend time early on harvesting around your starter town, returning to the bank when you are at maximum weight to bank them.

submachine gun and drive. You may find yourself making a permanent impression on those ruins ahead of you if you do. #10: Work with others. The community in Fallen Earth is responsive, so if you are unsure, ask in regional chat and someone is bound to answer you. Some quests are difficult to do alone, especially if you are a crafter or a support character or the quests are in an instance. Group with others as often as possible to achieve mutual goals.

#9: Be prepared for long travel times. Travel takes a very long time in Fallen Earth, especially from each major town to the next. Be prepared for that. Accept it… until you get a motorcycle. However, as with anything, don’t fire a 23


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