If you like your MMOs, chances are there’s been some news that might interest you this week. Read on for the latest goings-on, packaged up all neatly for you, regarding Aion, Kingdom Under Fire II, EVE Online, Champions Online, Warhammer Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Trek Online.

    It’s approaching Christmas, an expensive time of year, so now would be an ideal time to get a free weekend of gaming handed to you wouldn’t it? Start the festivities early, then, because in celebration of Thanksgiving, Cryptic Studios is letting everyone play Champions Online this weekend free of charge. You can play if from now until 10am PST on Monday without spending a penny.

    While you’re there, why not check out the new Nemesis confrontation which is now available. We’ve been hearing about this feature since the game was in development, so to be able to play it at last is great – stamp out your pesky nemesis once and for all, with the help of a few friends of course.

    If you do decide to to fly, swing or dig your way into Champions Online this weekend, be sure to check out the snazzy new costume accessories that were added too. New capes, hats and weapons are now available, adding yet more choice to the seemingly endless selection of costume parts. Of course, you can find out what else awaits you in last month’s review.

    A new game entered my MMO radar this week; the Kingdom Under Fire games, sitting firmly in the ‘Action RTS’ genre until now, have a rather sexy-looking sequel on the way which is said to bring an “MMO Online mode”. Having played the first game on the original Xbox, I’m pretty excited about this upcoming title. KUFII is set around 150 years after the previous game, KUF: The Crusades, and features characters and descendants of characters from the earlier games.

    Blueside, the company behind the KUF franchise, released some brand new in-game footage this week, which will be showing at the G Star games expo in Korea. Check it out over on IncGamers TV, and you’ll see why this could be something special if there’s an MMO mode. The battles are HUGE and the special effects are breath-taking. There’s some new screenshots too which you can see in the gallery. Look out for more on this game from us soon.

    I’ll leave talk of swords and battle-cries for just a moment and move onto something a bit more sci-fi; EVE Online players were treated to a new trailer for the upcoming Dominion expansion this week, showing off the possibilities of fleet warfare thanks to a revised communication system. The game’s 12th free expansion has reshaped sovereignty, giving players better tools for both warfare and alliance.

    A trailer for another space-based MMO, Star Trek Online, was released this week. The short film gives gamers a glimpse of what they can expect to see as they travel the universe. From orbiting planets to shattered galaxies, the bridge of a ship to the surface of a new world, even some multi-ship battles. Check out the trailer here.

    BioWare unveiled the final two classes in the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, this week. The reveal was made in a German gaming magazine, filling in fans on the Empire’s Inquisitor class, a force class somewhat akin to the Emperor in the films, and the Republic’s Consular class, another force user. Both classes favour casting over melee, which offers something to players that prefer the robe-wearing type of character.

    The latest webcomic for SW:TOR was also released last Friday, updating the storyline that sets players up for the game, which will hopefully be out some time next year.

    {PAGE TITLE=MMO News Wrap-Up Page 2}Warhammer Online has been in the headlines again – yes, yet more bad news for the struggling MMO. It was revealed that two more servers are being closed down, after Mythic announced it will be opening up free character transfers from Dark Crag and Phoenix Throne to busier servers. This is another blow for Mythic, which saw over 60 WAR servers shut down earlier this year due to a dwindling player-base, and a third of the company’s workforce cut in a recent EA restructuring program.

    WAR was the topic of an article we wrote recently, in which we pondered the future of the game. Will it go the same way as the infamous Tabula Rasa, or can it plod along with a couple of hundred thousand subscribers?

    On a lighter note, NCsoft’s Aion is enjoying a thriving community, despite the bots and RMT spammers. But just when it seemed the dust was settling after the launch of the high-flying MMO, NCsoft got players all excited again. Last week, the company hinted that a mystery video was on the way and, boy, did they deliver.

    The video is NCsoft’s vision of Aion’s future, and it includes almost everything MMO gamers have ever asked for. When Aion launched, players were a little surprised to see that something as simple as swimming was beyond characters – they drown quite quickly if they enter water over their head. The ‘visions’ trailer not only shows characters swimming, but entire underwater quest lines.

    New zones, including a desert with some sort of giant flying sand beast, is shown, and area that is purely for player housing. These houses can be modified on the outside, as well as designed inside to suit the player, with a selection of furniture and fittings. Updated graphics are also on display – something players certainly weren’t complaining about in the first place – and finally, mounts. In Aion, characters get around by foot or wing, although flight time is annoyingly limited, meaning the early levels are spent mostly running from A to B. The video shows characters taming mounts, which also look to be able to fly.

    The final scene in the video shows what appears to be a city siege, with summoned colossi aiding players, and defenders using something like plasma cannons.

    It’s not clear if all of this will make it to the game; Maybe NCsoft is using it to find out what players are most excited about. The trouble is, I get the feeling everyone is pretty much saying “WE WANT IT ALL! NOW!”. Or is that just me?

    Aion is a game that appeals to players who appreciate amazing visuals and an in-depth character customisation. Adding something like player housing will go down a treat with the player base, not to mention updated graphics, even if it does mean having to upgrade their machines.

    However, in the immediate future of Aion we’re more likely to see things like fixes to the levelling curve and risk vs reward. That’s according to NCsoft’s latest letter to the community, which also reveals that the war against botters is going well. Those free transfers we were promised when the server queues were at their worst have been pushed back in favour of kicking the botters out once and for all though. I reckon that’s a good thing – most people that wanted to move servers have probably just re-rolled by now anyway.

    On a final note, I took a look at the origins of MMOs and how they’ve become so popular over the last few years in my column on Monday. How did the multi-million dollar industry we know and love grow from a bunch of guys sitting around a table rolling a dice? Why does the computer game version attract so many more people?

    That’s it for this week folks. As always, be sure to look out for our podcast which will go up later today, where we talk about some of the issues mentioned above, along with other gaming news from the past week.

    Paul Younger
    Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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