Cataclysm: Peacebloom v Ghouls

singingsunflower

Anyone who was paying attention to the latest list of Cataclysm achievements will have noticed a couple for surviving waves of “Peacebloom v Ghouls.” And if, like me, you love Popcap games you were probably dancing around at that point, because it could only mean one thing: Plants v Zombies comes to Warcraft.

And as an example of why Blizzard is always so feted for their polish, not only have they implemented a version as a minigame, but one of the rewards is a singing sunflower pet. And it will be voiced by Laura Shighara, who is the composer for the original PvZ score and song.

Here is a video of the WoW minigame in action, with some voiceover explaining what is going on.

Does anyone else wonder how this fits into the new ‘no advertising on MMOs’ scheme at Activision? Sure, it’ll be great fun but I’d be astounded if it doesn’t also sell a lot of PvZ (which is an awesome game, incidentally).

Minigames in MMOs

Lots of MMOs feature mini games of some sort. You could even argue that combat is a type of minigame, as is playing with the economy. But it’s the instanced style of minigame that has the possibility to be so anti-immersive. Not only does it take you out of the main virtual world, but into another one with completely different rules.

And the sad thing is that the parts of MMOs which probably should be minigames (crafting!) usually aren’t.

Anyhow, if you love the sound of Peacebloom v Ghouls and are curious about other games which offer a lot of slickly executed minigames to try while wandering around the world, hie thee to Free Realms. It’s a very neat game and has lots and lots of cool minigames (including tower defence, bejewelled-style match-3 games, and cart racing) to try out as you explore.

SOEs latest Clone Wars Adventures is also chock full of minigames, although without the virtual world to wander as well. (This game is more like a minigame arcade.)

You might also want to check out Wizard 101, in which combat works far more like a card based minigame than a typical MMO and which also has an arcade of rather addictive minigames to help you regen mana.

Feel free to recommend any games in comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Gaming News: Layoffs at SOE, PC Zone kicks the bucket, Tale in the Desert’s new telling, Is Bobby Kotick a gamer?, Free Realms lifetime bargain

This week there has been a lot of debate on monetization of computer games. This has been an ongoing issue – how do people want to pay for games which they play over a long period of time (aside from ‘not at all, please’). And surely a game which provides 100 hours of play should be worth more than one where the player gets bored after an hour and never tries it again, shouldn’t it?

This week’s debate was kicked off again by analyst Michael Pachter. In any case, it’s clear that if you are in the business of selling expensive AAA certain best sellers with online multiplayer support that you fully expect players to keep playing for several hours a week for the next few months … then you’ll want to look at getting more money out of the punters via subscriptions and cash shops. Also you don’t want to take too many risks with your games – this is the current Activision model.

If you are in the business of selling a wider range of games and you hope that players will buy lots of them before they find one that they want to put more time into, then massive variety in the games on offer and lots of choices about demos, freemium, try before you buy, and optional DLC are the way to go. EA is heading this way.

There will be blood. The only certain outcome is that we will all end up paying more for online gaming. And that Blizzard will try to keep battle.net free for as long as they can since they’ve said repeatedly that they want to do that. Good luck there then.

Sony News: Layoffs, Free Realm cheap subs, security issues

SOE this week announced that they were laying off 4% of their staff (35 employees). Massively have done some digging and noted that this mostly affects EQ2 and Vanguard staff. I’ll call it now and say that there’s no way that SOE are working on Everquest 3. Feel free to mock me if I am proved wrong later.

This week, they also announced a good temporary deal on lifetime subscriptions to Free Realms. The Ancient Gaming Noob wonders whether SOE are in need of a quick burst of funds, which may be the case. But I suspect that actually people who have paid a ‘lifetime sub’ (which in this case comes down to the same price as a boxed game) are more likely to keep dropping in and playing the game occasionally, which also means more likely to spend money in the cash shop.

Also, I bet a lot of people who tried Free Realms and liked it but weren’t really drawn in enough to keep playing will pay the cheap lifetime cost, just to ‘keep the option open in future since the price is so good right now’.

Or in other words, I think this will draw in a lot of people who otherwise had no intention at all of paying for subscriptions. SOE is assuming this outweighs the income they get from people who actually did pay for subs, which I am guessing isn’t many. It’ll be interesting to see how this all works out. And also bear in mind they’re launching a new FR style star wars game this autumn so they’ll be hoping that some current active FR players will be spending cash in that too.

And the final SOE news this week is that they’ve had a security alert for EQ2/ station accounts. That is not good.

Layoffs at Rockstar

More layoffs in the game industry were in the news this week. Rockstar has apparently laid off 40 of the Red Dead Redemption team, proving again that making a best selling award winnning game is no guarantee of industry job security.

I think they also the win “worst use of management speak” award for this year so far for:

As Rockstar San Diego transitions from the launch of Red Dead Redemption onto future projects, we are realigning our resources in order to continue to develop games as effectively as possible.

PC Zone, end of an era

I always hated PC Zone so I don’t care if it died, but for those who do care, a 17 year old UK gaming magazine closed its doors this month.

PC Gamer has far far better coverage of the sorts of games I actually like (MMOs, adventure games, puzzle games, DS games etc) which is why I actually buy it occasionally. I hope that PC Zone’s demise is an indicator that the core audience is not what it used to be.

Activision wonders if hardcore gamers love them enough

Several stories this week about Activision:

  1. Activision Publishing’s CEO says that they need to fix their hardcore reputation. By which he means that they want hardcore gamers to love them. They have possibly realised that this is not currently the case although it will not in any way stop people from buying their games.
  2. Tim Schafer, respected game developer, has some choice words about Bobby Kotick and calls him a total dick who doesn’t like games.
  3. Item 1 above may explain why Activision actually responded to Tim Schafer’s comments. Their spokeswoman points out that Tim has never actually met Kotick and claims, “Bobby has always been passionate about games and loves the videogame industry.” Notably, she doesn’t try to claim that he isn’t a total dick.

Apparently Starcraft 2 cost $100m to make. But we don’t know how much of that Blizzard spent on painting the logo all over airliners. In any case, the game is released on 27th July, at which point they’ll start making all that money back. The sheer sums involved are now comparable to blockbuster movie development. That’s where the industry is.

A new tale in the desert telling to start soon

Tale in the Desert, the indie darling social/crafting MMO starts a new telling soon. (A telling is basically a reboot of the game, so if you are curious to get in on the ground floor, that’s the time to do it.)

I plan to write more on TitD soon. I did play it for a few months during Telling 3 and it’s  an absolutely fascinating game. It is also not one without its problems – the big problem in social games being the other players.

Gaming News: Landmarks for Wizard 101 and Free Realms, Rumour Control (SWTOR beta, DCUO pricing, APB adverts), CoH expansion dated, Blizzard writing contest

If you have somehow escaped knowing this, Steam have a really good sale on at the moment. Also, we’re about to lose at football again. Is that really news?

Numbers are up for Free Realms and Wizard 101

Good news everyone! Kid friendly non-subscription MMOs have posted some great numbers this week. Wizard 101 registered its 10 millionth player this week, with Free Realms claiming it’s jaw-droppingly 12th million signup.

Obviously the majority of these players are not actually paying to play, and many of them probably registered, checked out the game, and never came back. But props to both studios for getting the word out. Millions of players found out about those games  somehow – probably not through the gaming press — and came to check them out. That is not a small accomplishment.

If you want to join the party, you can get to Wizard 101 here, and Free Realms here. They’re both solid, kid oriented games.

Assorted Rumors, we’ve got them here!

The beta test for Star Wars: The Old Republic is widely rumoured to have started this weekend. Apparently 100-200 people received invitations to a game testing program, and SWTOR community managers have clarified what is and isn’t covered by their NDA (a fairly good sign that there’s something going on.)

Anyone care to bet that Blizzard will end up releasing Diablo 3 in the same month that SWTOR goes live? Anyone?

Sony confirmed this week that they’re going with an old fashioned subscription pricing setup for DC Universe Online. Or should I say, “old fashioned subscription model but probably with a cash shop anyway”? It’s interesting that they decided not to distinguish their game from CoH and Champions Online by going with a different pricing model. Clearly they’ve looked at their various portfolio of games and run the numbers, and think that they’re playing to a more hardcore audience here.

APB continues to flirt with controversy by deciding to play audio ads to players – even paying players. I don’t personally feel that one advert every three hours or so is something to get worked up about, is this even the sort of game that people play for three hours straight? Still, it takes double dipping to a new level if you look at income sources. Players pay for hours, plus there’s a cash shop, plus income from advertising.

I don’t imagine there’s all that much cash YET in in-game advertising, but I’ll be interested to see if it catches on.

Turbine is rumoured to be working on a new console MMO, with the assistance of Twisted Pixel. Scott@Pumping Irony guesses that this might be a Harry Potter game, given that Turbine is now owned by Warner Brothers who own that licence. I think I’d go with that as my guess also.

On a more local level, politicians had been talking excitedly here about the possibility of some kind of tax break for gaming companies. This went out of the window in the recent ‘austerity’ budget. But was there undue influence from outside companies lobbying against this? Did ‘one of the biggest gaming companies in the world’ really sabotage the tax break? The local gaming industry body says no, government made that decision all on their own. I’m inclined to believe them, this wasn’t a budget in which there was ever going to be much support for tax breaks.

And finally, is Linden Labs (the developer of Second Life) in trouble? They’ve just sacked their CEO and earlier this year they made 30% of the staff redundant. There is no good spin for that sort of story. They’re going down.

Going Rogue goes live in August

NCSoft announced that 17th August is the date for City of Heroes players to pencil into their diaries.  Going Rogue always sounded to be an interesting expansion, promising moral choices for players and the possibility for heroes to become villains or vice versa. I’ll be curious to hear more about it (probably from my husband since he’s a huge fan :) ).

I think they’ve done well to pick a date which is in the traditional MMO doldrums, before the rush of new games in the Autumn and Winter months. Maybe players who are bored with their other games will be lured into picking up an old fan favourite to see what they have to offer.

Anyone thinking of trying this?

Blizzard seeks fanfic writers

Last year’s contest was evidently popular because Blizzard is again running a fanfic competition. If you have any stories to tell that are set in the gameworlds of Diablo, Starcraft, or Warcraft, this could be your chance to shine.

These are last year’s winners if anyone wants to gauge the possible standard of entries. I rather enjoyed the winner (bit too elfy is my only criticism.)

Gaming News: First PS3 MMO?, Cataclysm Alpha, Lucasarts Execs resign, and Games Workshop sue Fan Site

The local news of course is that our election on Thursday produced a hung parliament. I was practically in the news myself when our demo for electoral reform made the front pages. I still think, “What do we want? Electoral reform. When do we want it? Now!” is not very catchy.

Free Realms for the PS3

Free Realms, Sony’s kid friendly MMO, will be demoed on the PS3 at next month’s E3 convention. It’s a fun, colourful game with plenty to do and see and also does not rely heavily on in game communication, so that might just be a very good fit indeed.

SOE have said a lot in the past about their goals to get MMOs onto consoles but this is the first game in their stable to actually make the leap.

I’m intrigued to see how this might work and how they’ll handle the pricing, but it’s a fun little game for all that and I’ll certainly be trying out the PS3 port. For research purposes only, you understand and not at all because I want a calico pet cat in every game which allows it. (You can train your cat to do tricks in FR.)

Cataclysm Alpha Test Begins

Friends and family alpha test began this week of Blizzard’s new WoW expansion. The client was leaked and fully data-mined and posted all over the web approximately 2s later.

The wow.com editors attempt to justify this by explaining that it’s all Blizzard’s fault for not paying attention to employee’s concerns (but we don’t know what these mysterious concerns might be). Or Blizzard could just sack anyone who leaks information that is clearly marked company confidential, like any other business would do. Assuming that it came from an employee, of course.

I’ll come back to this topic later. But it’s clear that either Blizzard fansites make too much money from printing leaked info to stop doing it, or else Blizzard just doesn’t have the goodwill from the playerbase which is what mostly keeps other NDAs under wraps.

Someone has managed to run WoW on an iPad

Gaikai have shown off their vaunted streaming gaming technology by demonstrating that it can be used to run WoW on an iPad.

But they don’t answer the most important question that this raises: is finger-turning worse than keypad turning?

Lucasarts President Resigns

This week several executives resigned from Lucasarts along with the company’s president. There is always a story behind mass senior resignations but in this case we don’t have much information on what is going on behind the scenes. It isn’t necessarily bad news for the developer, per se.

Lucasarts say that no current game development (such as Star Wars) will be affected, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? The fact that the company announced that they are searching for a replacement implies that he actually did resign rather than being pushed (when someone is fired, there is usually already a replacement lined up.)

Games Workshop sue Warhammer Online fansite

This was one of the more unexpected news stories of the week, and really should have all fansites on their toes.

The main fan-run bboard and community for Warhammer Online is called Warhammer Alliance. It has been up for months (maybe even years) before Mythic’s Warhammer MMO went live, and was bought out by Curse to be part of their fansite stable. Yes, that’s the same curse.com who host a lot of WoW addons.

And now, Games Workshop are suing Curse for trademark infringement among a host of other issues. The issue is the name of the fansite. They claim that Warhammer Alliance implies that the site is formally associated with Games Workshop.

Or in other words, Curse is in profit and GW wants a cut. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit goes, if Curse even attempt to fight it rather than just settling out of court. I suspect that Curse et al have a good case, but that the costs of legal action against GW could be prohibitive.

However, if I was involved with a fansite that had gleefully picked a game specific name without asking permission first from the trademark holders, I would be watching this one with interest. Anyone else think Blizzard might have a case to claim that wow.com infringed their trademarks if they get pissed off by  … for example … consistent leaks about new expansions?

Peace on Earth and RMT to Games Companies

We are approaching the time of year when for many people in the western world, Christian or not, thoughts turn to charity. How can we use our hard earned money to help other people and make the world a better place?

Among the many good causes who’d like a slice of that pie, this week sees a couple more game companies throwing their hats into the ring. (I feel like it’s RMT week or something.)

Say you love her, buy her a minipet (on WoW)

There were a couple of big(ish) WoW news items that came up yesterday. People seem to be mostly ignoring the fact that you’ll soon be able to earn arena points from winning battlegrounds which is a pretty big climbdown on Blizzard’s part, in favour of the minipets added to the Blizzard shop.

So, for $10/£9 (this is an extortionate exchange rate for us, by the way) you can now buy yourself a funky minipet with special moves to add to your collection. Or, smartly, they have made it very easy to buy one as a gift for someone else who plays Warcraft. Is letting people buy minipets going to break the game? Nope. It’s not functionally all that different than giving them away with rare cards in the CCG. It is, however, another step towards a fully fledged item store. Maybe they just weren’t making enough money. I think they are smart enough to avoid selling items that will affect gameplay but the temptation to see if they could push their players just a little further is always going to be there.

It also raises questions along the lines of “How much is a minipet worth anyway?” For the price of both minipets you could snag yourself a copy of Torchlight, for example. The answer of course is that it’s worth whatever people are willing to pay and from forums I frequent, I see a lot of people enthusiastically buying the new pets either for themselves or for partners/friends. The pets themselves are undoubtedly high quality, as such things go, with their special emotes and animations.

They plan to add more pets to the shop as time goes on. I wonder if they’ll go as far as a ‘pet of the month’ club where you just increase your sub to cover the monthly minipet too. I suspect a lot of players would spring for that.

Free Realms not so free after all

Player vs Developer spotted an announcement buried deep in an interview about Free Realms about a shift in philosophy for that game also. Previously, a large part of the game was free to play. If you picked up a monthly sub you got access to more powerful and interesting classes to play, and access to extra quests and activities. In addition they had an item shop selling many of the usual suspects (pets, cosmetic items, potions, equipment).

In early November (ie. nowish, I guess) that’s all set to change. The game is now only free to play up to level 5 in any career, although that now includes the jobs which had previously been locked to subscribers. But if you want to keep playing after that, you have to subscribe. Naturally the cash shop will remain available. Pre-existing characters will still be allowed to level up to 20 on the previously free jobs.

I can only assume that they feel they’ll make more money from switching to a full subscription game. Maybe the free to play wasn’t working out as well as they’d hoped? (I suspect the issue is to do with targetting kids as their main audience, they’re just not a market with much disposable income to spend on cosmetic gear and pets.)

Why choose between subscriptions and RMT when you can have both?

What both of these announcements have in common is that they show that the big western AAA MMOs are playing around with different payment methods and seem to be settling on the one which is least advantageous to players.

To whit: they’re going with a mandatory subscription, possibly a mandatory box sale for the initial game and expansions, and also throwing in an item store.

We’ve seen it in Champions Online, we’ve seen it in EQ2, we’ve seen it in WoW (they’re just more explicitly selling cosmetic items now), and if the model sticks, they probably won’t be the last ones down the line.

It’s widely held that some of the indie games have more favourable RMT schemes, such as Wizard 101 and Puzzle Pirates. Ultimately, I think they’re going to be the outliers though. STO is likely to use a similar scheme to Champions given that it’s coming from the same company. And who knows yet what Bioware will decide to do with their Star Wars game?

And that leaves Dungeons and Dragons Online, where the free to play model seems so far to be working for them very well (unless you’re in Europe). So well, in fact, that they’ve just opened another server. Have they just monetized better by charging for instances? Will anyone else follow their lead?

Brief encounters: Free Realms, Metaplace, Galactrix

a href=My journey in Free Realms continues to be one of discovery. This week I finally figured out how to take screenshots whilst simultaneously failing to take any good ones. Funny how that goes.

To take a screenshot: F12

To remove the UI (so you can get a clean screenshot): F10

If using Windows XP, screenshots will be stored in C:\Program Files\Sony Online Entertainment\Installed Games\Free Realms\ImageCaptureOutput

(NB. If the program actually asked you before it installed where you’d like it to go, this might have been more obvious — this is one of the minor side effects from it being such a seamless install.)

I’m approaching FR from an exploring point of view, so if I find myself getting bored or distracted from one activity, I just go and do something else. So it’s quite interesting for me to check what levels I have in different careers because it shows which minigames I most enjoyed:

Higher than 15: Card Duellist, Miner, Blacksmith

Higher than 5: Wizard, Ninja, Pet Trainer, Adventurer

Higher than 1: Brawler, Archer, Warrior, Chef, Postman

So this week I did try out a few of the combat careers, but was put off by the grind. I think this would be much more fun with someone else to play with. But given FR’s total lack of a working friends list, continuing awkwardness of befriending people you actually know, and my lack of being able to persuade my other half/ sisters to play, that will going to have to go on the back burner (for me at least).

I have liked the little mini combat encounters and dungeons that I have seen. But the 2* difficulty ones that you get after level 5 are harsh to solo on my little wizard, who doesn’t get any crowd control until level 10.

Miner and Blacksmith are both more solo friendly. I’m impressed that Tobold has hit level 20 in both, I was finding Blacksmith fun in small spurts but rather grindy overall. It doesn’t help that I still don’t much care for smelting. However, fun in small spurts is what this game is all about for me. I don’t need long sessions and I think it works best if you approach it like a bag of licorice allsorts (ie. just grab a handful of different flavours and see what you get).

I also tried out the Pet Trainer this week, although have still resisted the urge to buy a Pookie of my own (next week I’ll try to get a picture of her side by side with my cat to show the similarity). If you don’t own a pet — which costs real money — you can ‘borrow’ one for 20 mins at a time to train with. I was able to get to level 7 in the first 20 minute session;  the pet animations and sounds are absolutely enchanting, even to a tomboy like me.

I particularly love the way that the pet really gives the impression of slowly learning its new trick. And the trainer (ie. you) is so obviously trying to encourage it.

I’ve decided to limit myself to a similar monthly spend to a regular MMO with Free Realms to see how it goes. I may well buy the pet next month. I noticed that some cost more than others and note in the flavour text that they help you with treasure hunting. I’m guessing that this means they’ll help you sniff out collections when you are out in the world with them, but have not been able to test this yet.

In the spirit of getting more value from my paid month, I also exercised my option to make an alt. Two things I noticed here:

  1. With the alt, I was given the option to skip the tutorial. Hurrah.
  2. Male characters get the option to have cool tribal type face markings and female ones get make-up or sparkly hearts/flowers/butterflies? I’m not making any specially feminist snark here but I know that as a kid I wasn’t into girly stuff and I don’t see the point in limiting options. Plus who is to say that some boys might not want the face sparklies?

In any case, congratulations are due to the Free Realms team for having achieved a million signups in a very short period of time. They’ve made a great little game and thoroughly deserve it. (They also celebrated this with a new loading screen which no longer shows the character with the guitar ;) ). Now, about that friends list …

Metaplace is now in open beta

If you like building stuff, check out Metaplace. I haven’t had a lot of time yet to experiment but the little starting tutorial will give you a flavour for the power behind the tools. As is often the case with tutorials, there seems to be a huge gap between where the tutorial stops and what  you really want to know to do the things you want to do. But I’ll be amazed if a prolific fan community doesn’t spring up to fill in the gaps.

So… Galactrix

I’ve had a couple of train journeys worth of Puzzlequest Galactrix which is not enough for a proper review (even by my lax standards). But I am really liking the ideas behind it, and it does have the freedom of movement I want to see in a Space-type game — that sense of ‘I can fly anywhere in the galaxy!!’.

But crikey it does spend a lot of time saving and loading data. Does the DS have no RAM or is the DS port just  too ambitious/  unoptimised for that platform’s requirements? (One of my jobs in my last place of work was porting code/ drivers from specialist hardware to PCs or vice versa but you don’t need to be an expert to see when the job is … a bit lacking.)

Still, I’m having fun and that’s all I really ask from a game. First impressions from Galactrix — money well spent!

Getting to know Free Realms

I have real problems in exploring Free Realms. It’s not the game, it’s me! Every time I decide to go check out some place that looked interesting on the map, I get distracted by something else I’ve come across on the way.

Truly, it is the game of, ‘I’ll just go and … OOO SHINY!’

I’m amused by how well trained I am from WoW to use quest chains to help me focus. Fortunately a lot of the careers (probably all of them but I still have some left to check!) have quest chains associated with them to introduce you to trainers and get you settled in.

On the other hand, why would it really matter if you get distracted as long as you found something else to do that was fun? There’s no sense of rush or urgency in the game. Oddly enough despite this, some of the minigames do provide a sense of achievement.

This week I’ve attempted to explore, and picked up all of the warpstones except for Briarheart which is my mission for today — unless I get distracted en route.

Warpstones are Free Realms’ equivalent of stable masters, although with fewer restrictions. You can open up your map from anywhere and click on any warpstone that you have already discovered to teleport there straight away.

If you do want more in the way of guides, zam.com (known previously as allakhazam.com, it’s had a revamp) has a shiny Free Realms site.

Collections

I’ve also discovered collections this week. There are lots  of different things you can collect in game, some are actual items and others are areas to explore. For example, one collection requires you to have visited all of the warpstones.

Every town in the game looks to have its own set of discovery collections which you can acquire by exploring the town. But you have to really focus on it, just wandering randomly around the town won’t do it.

The item collections are more similar to collections in EQ2. As you travel around you will sometimes see glowing items on the floor. Click on those and you may have an item for your collection. I still have a lot to find out about collections for myself, I think some items may turn up as part of minigames, some may depend on your current career, and some on where you are. I’m wishing I’d made better notes on where I was when I found different items but I did promise myself to play this in a relaxed way so I won’t fret about it.

To check your collections,  open up the My Quests and Collections tab. It’s bound to L.

Playing with friends

The friendslist server still seems to be down as much as it is up, and it’s just as awkward as before to add people to your friends list if they aren’t actually in the game.

But I was happy to find when playing with my sister that once friended, if she was in the game and I wasn’t, I could click on her name in the web interface and not only be logged into the same server, but also in the same location.

I wish more MMOs would do this, it’s great.

Pete@Dragonchasers noticed this also, along with 6 other things about Free Realms which are easy to miss.

Have not yet persuaded husband to try FR but he was watching over my shoulders with interest as I played the mining minigame so who knows?

When minigames kick your butt

I had meant to try more of the careers but I keep drifting back to mining. There is a particularly knotty challenge on one of the mining quests to beat a score of 100k while mining iron and I was ridiculously pleased when I finally was able to do it.

Note: If you are at Lavender Coast,  trying to find the iron nodes, and wondering why they all seem to be hidden behind the barrier, walk straight past the barrier and keep heading west. You will soon get to the path into the mine.

Heilig@Brasse.com has a good mining guide. I don’t really feel a guide is necessary here but he goes through the basic strategies and tiles to watch out for.

Although I did enjoy the card game, I’m at the point where I’d really like to try building a deck around a different element and I just don’t see any way to get enough cards to do that without spending some cash. It’s not just a case of buying one pack of 10 cards (at £4 per pack, the same price as a month’s sub). I don’t really know how many I’d  need to buy, so I’ll keep playing the odd match with my mechanical deck but I’m not sure that it will keep my interest.

Other things I did this week were spend a bit more time on the brawler (trainer is in the tutorial area) and ninja (trainer is in Lakeshore). These are both combat/MMO type classes. You start with two abilities of which one is a basic attack. And that’s it until you hit level 5.

Unfortunately level 5 requires a bit of grinding. The combat careers felt more grindy to me than the mining but the truth is I really did spend a lot more time on mining. When each mining minigame takes 5 minutes, it’s hard to compare with a combat minigame that takes a minute at most.

Speaking of the combat minigame, the idea of it is growing on me. None of the enemies in game is aggro, until you click on it and are transported into the minigame. This sees you in a small area where you can wander around and fight until everything else is dead. Some of the minigames have ministories to go with them — eg. mob X has kidnapped someone, can you save them?!

They are reminding me more and more of random encounters in D&D.

There are also instances which you can go and explore. Those will take a little longer to clear.

So what about the less free part?

I plunked down my £4 for one month’s sub, just to see how the other half live. As well as access to the other five jobs and some subscriber only quests, there are extra subscriber-only minigames that you may run into as you explore.

(You can see now why I was getting so easily distracted).

I found an archaeology minigame that was similar to mining, and a skiing type minigame that I need to go back and check properly. I’m sure there’s a lot more than I haven’t yet found.

Of the other careers, it was blacksmith that I decided to try first. This job lets you use the materials you can gather from mining to turn out shiny weapons. The blacksmithing minigame is similar in style to the harvesting one, but you do need to make sure you have all your materials handy. Some can be bought cheaply from a trade vendor, and there seems to be one near every anvil.

Others you’ll need from a miner. And that miner will need to be someone who doesn’t mind smelting. This conflicts me because much as I love the mining minigame, I’m really not fond of the smelting one (it’s similar to the way cooking works in game and therefore not really for the mouse-clumsy).

Since most people would want crafted weapons but there’s no obvious way to sell them, I wonder if your only option if you don’t know a smith is to spam The Sanctuary (or a town of your choice) with requests.

I’m hoping to check out at least some of the other jobs this week. Just for reference, the location of the tutors is as follows:

  • Archer: Lugabow in Greenwood Forest (south west part)
  • Blacksmith: Smitty in Snow Hill
  • Brawler: Tutorial
  • Card Duelist: Sam Potts or Poe Tatters in The Sanctuary
  • Chef: Tutorial (or Simone at Crossroads)
  • Medic: Nurse Naia in The Sanctuary
  • Miner: Therin in Snow Hill, you have to go all the way into the mine.
  • Ninja: Master Ty in Lakeshore
  • Pet Trainer: Zachary in Stillwater Crossing or Mercy Merrywing in Highroad Junction  (I have trained my RL cat to … actually no I haven’t, she just does what she wants anyway.)
  • Postman: Felipe in The Sanctuary
  • Warrior: Drill Sergeant Dewey in Snow Hill
  • Wizard: Fizzlesticks (take the path North out of Lakeshore and follow over the bridge, then turn left as the road forks and go to the Robgoblin camp)

But the drag of getting a combat job to level 5 is dragging at my heels, after all, there’s mining to be done and …. OO, SHINY!