This has been a strange week in MMORPG gaming.  Of course, online games being what they are, every week is a strange week in MMORPG gaming.  The past seven days have been no exception, providing us stories that are simultaneously boring and interesting, both implausible and completely understandable, and coincidentally nutty and slutty.  Without further ado, away we go….

    Let’s start with some breaking news out of the Consumer Electronics Show taking place in Las Vegas.  CES is still predominantly a gadget show, but some game developers were there showing off their wares.  This includes the impressive-looking DC Universe Online.  A developer gave a nice, three part video interview of the game, hoping to generate interest in the title and show off some of the innovative and fast-paced gameplay.  The second and third parts of the interview were, quite frankly, stunning.  Videos two and three showcase a game that is quick and full of action, the characters are unique and interesting, and the quest system is both utterly new and beautifully innovative. 

    A note on the DCU quest system:  because the game is designed to be played on both consoles and PCs, the tried-and-true methods of acquiring quests (which universally consist of talking to a quest giver, reading his text, and then doing his bidding) won’t work.  DCU has implemented a system where mom and dad heroes (like Wonder Woman or Superman) contact you via your communications device and simply tell you what to do.  While fighting bad guys and otherwise minding your own business, a video pops up in the corner of your screen, and the ol’ Man of Steel starts barking orders.  Whether you do what he says is completely up to you, but you are rewarded if you accomplish the tasks he assigns.

    You’ll notice, above, that I said that the second and third videos showcased the game nicely.  That is very true.  The first video, oddly, didn’t do such a hot job of pimping out DC Universe Online.  Why?  Presumably because no one could get through that first video.  Seriously, it was a snoozefest.  Character creation was the talking point of the moment, and create a character the developer does.  Then he immediately lets that character stand, unmoving, on his screen while he continues talking.  And talking.  And talking some more.  I once went to an art gallery, and heard a lecture on the subtlety of the Dutch Impressionists while staring at a painting.  The lecture went on and on, and I swear, that oil painting was far, far more interesting and dynamic than staring at an unmoving superhero while a dev drones on and on about who knows what.  On that note, if you’d like to see parts two and three of the DCU presentation (not showing you part one is an act of human compassion, let me assure you) you can do so right here.   

    Speaking of boring, allow us, for the moment, to consider the current state of Age of Conan.  This promising game was supposed to carve out a nice juicy niche for itself.  Promising a rich, mature game world, AoC fell a bit short when released.  Principally, this was because the game wasn’t quite finished yet.  The much-tauted city siege system didn’t work, player-vs-player combat was meaningless and empty, and there was little actual content in the game after the starter zone.  Have these problems been fixed?  Um…..well….it’s kind of hard to say. 

    Unfortunately, it seems that the AoC problems are coming home to roost, bigtime.  When a game struggles to retain customers, server consolidations are the norm.  The process is simple: two servers simply become one.  In the case of AoC, it seems that as many as six servers are becoming one.  Some details are in order:In the EU, 13 English-language servers are being reduced to just four.Spanish, German, and French servers are also seeing reductions, but in an attempt to keep at least one server type per language group (PvP, PvE, PvP-RP, and PvE-RP) these reductions are far less dramatic.  Thus 12 servers are melding into 8.In the Oceanic region (serving predominantly Aussies, Kiwis, and eleven U.S. Air Force guys stationed on Guam) 3 servers are becoming 2.Most dramatically, in North America, 21 servers are melding into just 4.
    If this is looking like the impending doom of another MMO, there is hope.  Funcom has been working on a version of the game for the Xbox 360, and this functionally gives them another chance to launch this game.  If they can pull it off, make the game fun and complete at launch, AoC may yet survive.  Barring that, this kind of radical server merge doesn’t bode well for this previously promising MMO.  Amazingly, an expansion pack for the PC version of the game is still in the works.     

    Have you ever wanted to be a whore?  You know, meet strange men, get naked, and have sex with them in exchange for money?  No?  That’s not something you find yourself thinking wistfully about on warm summer nights, or daydreaming about when you’re alone?

    Well, according to one “Palela Alderson”, that’s been her life-long ambition for many, many years.  She was fascinated by the street-walking prostitutes in her native Italy, and dreamed of joining their ranks.  The thrill of meeting new men, and getting paid to have random sexual encounters with them seemed to her like a dream job.  Several years back, she even hired herself out as a real world escort, but couldn’t bring herself to follow through.  She thought her family might find out, and that would be embarrassing.

    Thankfully for Palela and the millions of other wanna-be hookers just like her, there is Second Life.  In SL, Palela can spend hours and hours whoring herself out to paying gentlemen.  In an interview, Palela describes her virtual occupation in glowing terms, discussing openly that an evening with her is usually 3 hours long.  For compensation, she is paid a whopping 2000-3000 Linden dollars.  As any Second Life veteran will tell you, that can be quickly turned into real-world currency, equating to about 9 Euros or 13 U.S. Dollars.  But hey, who can put a price on a dream?    

    While Home may be the very troubled virtual world launched by Sony to mediocre acclaim, the PS3 still has a lot going for it.  Sound effects, for example.  As two Danish men found out, the PS3 is capable of generating some surprisingly realistic sounds.  You know, sounds like “machine gun fire” and “the explosions of hand grenades”.  This is especially true if you turn the volume up really, really high, and scare the sh*t out of your neighbors, who think the two of you are starting World War Three.  Police were called, the men were detained (and later released), and all was peaceful in Denmark again.

    Speaking of World War Three, the U.S. Army has set up a highly experimental recruiting office in a shopping mall near Philadelphia.  The recruiting office is essentially a giant arcade, featuring customized games illustrating army life.  The principle game is a full size mockup of a Humvee.  Two players stand up in the back, firing M16s at enemies on large screens.  I think if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s this:  life in the Army is, for the most part, almost exactly like a really cool video game.  Since no one will ever question that maxim, this recruitment station is bound to be a stunning success and teenagers will be enlisting in droves.

    If you ever want to take your MMO gaming to the next level, consider an Alternate Reality Game.  ARGs are growing in popularity, as they are immersive mysteries that take place in the real world.  If traveling around the country, digging up treasures, scouring the internet for clues, and trying to solve elaborate, conspiratorial puzzles sounds like fun, here’s a list of the current crop of ARGs.  (Note:  playing any of these games will make you both completely paranoid and, officially, the weird guy at the office.  If you’re not already the weird guy at the office, you may want to think twice about devoting your time to an ARG). 

    And that’s all for this week, fellow game geeks.  If you’d like to hear about these kinds of shenanigans on a daily basis, come check us out over at WanderingGoblin.com.  We serve up this kind of nonsense each and every day.  For now, ciao!

    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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