Thursday, December 31, 2009

In The Year 2010, Heartless' Predictions

Its nearly 2010 and without further hesitation, here are my predictions:

1. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will be sold or shut down by EA.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic will NOT launch this year.

3. Already launched MMOGs, not named World of Warcraft, will have a rough year.

4. Newer, quality F2P games will storm the market and one will challenge WoW for the mainstream playerbase.

5. WoW will remain the king cash cow as the subscription model continues its dominance.


6. Digital distribution will start being taken seriously by market analysts as Steam proves the platform's power on the PC market.

7. Digital distribution will quietly replace boxed sales completely for PC games.

BONUS REAL LIFE PREDICTION: A political uprising will shock the world and the mainstream media will only find out about it after checking their Twitter accounts.  Three days later, they will realize it was simply a mis-spelled #hashtag and re-purposed Youtube videos.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heartless_ Game Review: Borderlands

Borderlands, from Gearbox software, blends FPS with RPG and tickles the loot center in every gamer’s brain. Borderlands is a good game, but misses greatness in every single category. Fortunately, there is a shitload of guns to make up for it.

Borderlands the RPG

Borderlands has all the makings for a great RPG: interesting characters, progression, and a story. Unfortunately, Borderlands is the king of “almost”.

The characters, like Dr Zed, come with great introduction scenes, but are quickly limited to dialogue boxes only. Other NPCs stand still, not moving, and often blend so well into the scenery that players walk by without noticing them. The only characters that stand out are the R2-D2 inspired robots nicknamed "claptraps" and some random chick that appears on screen to provide dribbles of information throughout the player's journey.

The story is fun to think about, but is not a draw for the game. It ends abruptly and does not make use of the characters or game world very well. The world itself will often make a better story than what is being sold by the random chick that pops up on the screen. The pieces are there, but the story is never put together firmly.

Character progression is handled via talent trees where players can specialize their skills in various weapons and skills. It's a well rounded, but average system. Each character recieves their unique class skill at level 5. After that, there were not any milestones that made me feel like I was achieving an important step in my characters life. Weapon skills are raised by using various weapon types

The loot is really the only RPG staple that stands out in Borderlands. It randomizes the look, stats, and effects of each weapon. With any randomized system, there is a lot of junk that is worthless, but getting a rare weapon is a treat. Getting to use that weapon to take down a giant mammoth-like Rakk Hive is icing on the cake.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Ten

The final day of my return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning ended with a resounding thud as my bright wizard ate dirt for the thousandth time at the hands of a Choppa.  To some, the last ten days may seem like an excuse for me to bitch about a game I once supported wholeheartedly.  I want to say up front that I wanted to give WAR a fair shake, even if I didn't have plans on returning to a subscription.   Unfortunately, at the end of the day, WAR is still the same sub-par game I left months ago, even if it has a new zone and better technical performance.

The new positives begin with the endless trial.  This has brought new blood into the game and the newbie zones were hopping.  Whether this is translating into subscriptions is unknown.  My fear is that the experience in a well populated tier 1 zone leaves an impression that can not be held up by tier's 2 and 3.  Players that come off the free endless trial may become bored quickly as the population hits rock bottom once outside of the trial zones.  My suggestion would be to extend the free trial all the way to the end of tier 3.  Yes, that's a lot of game for free, but tier 2 and 3 are a general waste of resources as it is.  Allowing trial players into these tiers will spice life up a bit and give them a glimpse of what the end game of WAR offers in tier 4.

The new positives end with the Land of the Dead.  As I stated, LotD is the model which all tier 4 zones should follow in WAR.  The concept of separate RvR lakes does not work and actively hurts WAR's community as players do not mingle across play styles.  If the principals of LotD (minus the gating mechanic) were to be applied across all tier 4 zones, WAR would be a better game.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Nine (Set pieces)

My ninth day and disapointment in my return to WAR can be summed up by this picture:

That is a tank sitting in the Empire starting zone of Nordland.  It hasn't moved in almost two years (and not a spot of rust anywhere!). 

After-Christmas Sales For Gamers

Update: 14 Jan, 2010 - Removed post and links as the sales are over.

Friday, December 25, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day 8 (Live Events)

Merry Christmas!  For my eighth day of WAR I'm going to talk about Live Events.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Seven (PvE)

For my seventh day of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning I did some PvE.

One of my first posts about WAR on this blog was about the importance of PvE:
WAR, without PvE, is just a mess waiting to happen.
I took a lot of flack for suggesting that WAR needed PvE.  WAR was going to be the ultimate RvR game, pitting throngs of players against each other in epic battles.  PvE was only a momentary distraction!  How wrong those people were.  It is suicide to attempt to push out a triple-A game that focuses solely on PvP-oriented conflict.  The player base is NOT there to support a game of WAR's budget size with only PvP.  Plus, with only PvP minded players, the battlefield becomes very stale, very quickly.

Ranting aside, WAR does have a good amount of cooperative PvE (I'm not talking about solo content today).  The end game features dungeons and loot progression.  The early game features a few dungeons and plenty of public quests.  Both ends of the spectrum benefit from an open grouping system that allows players to find groups on the fly in their current area.

With my time limited, I was not able to get into any dungeon groups on my rank 40 Ironbreaker.  I logged into my level 8 White Lion and journeyed to Nordland and Norsca to enjoy some public quests.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TIP: How to move Steam games to another drive in Windows 7/Vista/XP

With the Steam holiday sale blitzing everyone's wallets, there are plenty of people trying to find hard drive space to store all of their new games (seriously, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for only $1.99, Mirror's Edge for $4.99).

One of the quirks with Steam is that it only allows users to install games to the same drive that Steam resides on.  For many, that is their main C: drive, which often fills up quickly.  I will detail the process used to move 3rd party games to another drive.  This will be for Windows 7 and Vista (Windows XP users click here).

10 Days of WAR: Day Six (Crafting)

I was inspired by the furious pace of Santa's elves to meet the Christmas demand and for my sixth day of WAR I crafted.  The crafting in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has always intrigued me.  The concepts are solid, but the execution was lacking at launch. The basic premise is that most monsters and player kills would result in crafting components.  Crafted items are mostly consumable items.  There wasn't traditional blacksmithing or weapon making: there was apothecary for potions, talisman making, and cultivation (which is a gathering skill, but I consider it a craft).

Often times crafting far outpaced a character's progression in WAR due to the mismatch of ingredient levels to a player's level.  The result was often piles and piles of crafted items that were unusable for several levels.  This was not only frustrating, but also impossible to avoid unless a player ignored crafting until they were max level.  To highlight this issue, I created this screenshot a long time ago:


As can be seen, level 30-32 ingredients resulted in level 38 potions for a character that was level 30.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unlimited Free Trials are the New MMO Hotness (Age of Conan, Champions Online, Warhammer Online, and more!)

Apparently I missed the memo.  Free trials with unlimited playtime, but level and gameplay restrictions, are popping up everywhere.

Age of Conan - LINK
Details:  Unlimited playtime. Players can play up to level 20, but only if registered for the trial before Jan 1st, 2010.  Trading and player chat limited.

Champions Online - LINK  
Details: Unlimited playtime. New players can create an account and play the beginning zone of Champions Online for as long as they want.

Warhammer Online - LINK
Details: Unlimited playtime. Players are restricted to the Tier 1 Empire vs Chaos zones, but can access all scenarios.  Trading and player chat limited.

Alganon - LINK
Details: Unlimited playtime. No leveling or zone restrictions, but trial characters are deleted after 30 days and must be re-rolled.  Limited skill progression and limited chat options.

10 Days of WAR: Day Five, Metaplace shutdown

For Day Five of my return to WAR, I took a break.  However, to fill space, I want to talk about the Metaplace shutdown that was announced yesterday:
Today we have unfortunate news to share with the Metaplace community. We will be closing down our service on January 1, 2010 at 11:59pm Pacific. The official announcement is here and copied below, and you can read a FAQ guide here. We will be having a goodbye celebration party on January 1st at 12:00noon Pacific Time.
I'm conflicted on what to think. On one hand I don't see how the product could ever generate revenue, but on the other hand I could see it had potential. In the end, the first was proven correct and the latter will be left to our imaginations.

Monday, December 21, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Four

Day four of my return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning was spent in Tier 1 scenarios.  As I stated on Day Three, tier 1 is my favorite part of WAR.  Also, I commented that the limitless trial was one of the best things going for WAR. Unfortunately, after last night, my mind has been slightly changed.

I've never had a problem with instanced content and it fits well in WAR.  Instanced scenarios offer quick and easy action and offer varied challenges. However, I was not having much fun playing last night.

My problems with scenarios in WAR are two fold: teams are rarely balanced and some scenarios aren't worth playing.  Unfortunately, both of these are worsened by the limitless trial.  This came as an unwelcome shock to my plans to play the limitless trial in the future.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Three

For Day Three of my 10-day return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, I ventured back into tier 1 to see how the new limitless trial was working out.  I rolled the one Order class I haven't played: the dwarf slayer.  Instead of starting in the dwarf lands, I was transplanted in the Empire starting area of Nordland.  This is meant to make sure that new players are concentrated into a single zone, allowing for the key features of WAR to shine (PQs, RvR, lairs).

I took a screenshot of a new item, the Rune of Transport, that describes exactly what it is all about:


Not only does it highlight the new combined starting area, it also makes a statement about the way the player density in WAR has been heading: down. However, the new starting area is good for WAR and it helps tremendously to hide the player density issues of the later tiers.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Two

Day two of my journey back into Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning landed me in the Land of the Dead.

After checking out the map of the zone I noticed that the Public Quest (PQ) markers showed how many players were present and participating. The PQ nearest the starting area was one short of the recommended group size, so I joined in the fun. The first monster I attacked, a giant condor, didn't fall over dead as I had expected. Instead it took flight with me in it's claws and headed up to the mountainside to deposit me in it's nest! I was shocked: MMOG monsters are supposed to die and give me loot, not try and feed me to their children!

Completing this PQ reminded me why I had such high hopes for WAR. PQs are brilliant and fun when enough players are present. Unfortunately since Order just unlocked access to the LotD zone, only the PQ nearest the warcamp had any players participating.

Referencing back to Day One, there are no PQs in any of the tier 4 RvR lakes, which is a damn shame considering that is where Mythic encourages players to spend their time.  Again, it frustrates me that NOTHING has been done to the RvR lakes to encourage players to visit outside of a zerg keep or objective fight.  Also, to highlight the poor design decisions, keeps and battlefield objectives reward increased experience/influence gain in zones where there is NO FUCKING CONTENT! 

I refuse to use the term zone for the RvR areas, as they are one-dimensional lakes.  Players returning to WAR to jump into the tier 4 RvR action are going to find the same sub-par game they left in the first place.  Anyways, back to LotD.

After a few runs of the PQ, I decided to see the rest of the zone. What I found next, blew my fucking mind:


Friday, December 18, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day One

I started my holiday-inspired return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning by logging into my level 40/ RR 35 Ironbreaker on Badlands. The first order of business was restoring my UI. WAR's default UI serves its purpose, but there are a few things my minimalist gamer brain needs: clean unit frames, consolidated info bars, and easily customized hotbars.

Rebuilding a lost UI can be aggravating, but for WAR, there is a great tool available from Curse for management and automatic updates/installs of most UI elements. I highly recommend the Curse Client.

For clean unit frames, I settled with Pure. Hotbars are managed via Vertigo. Info bars are kept organized with Warboard. The rest: Phantom, Squared, and MOTH.



 


After thirty minutes of  UI customization, I was ready to helicopter on out to the Tier 4 RvR lakes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

10 Days of WAR

I've run the gambit of thoughts on WAR, my final verdict after months of play was that WAR had pockets of greatness, but the overall design was poor. Also, some technical and stability issues arose directly related to poor design that really aggravated me. However, since quitting, I've wanted to go back. So, I've decided to take advantage of the re-enlistment campaign for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

With that will come the following list of nifty gifts:

I have no honest plans to resubscribe because I lack the time to make $14.95 a month a justifiable expense.  However, stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Welcome to the new Heartlessgamer.com

Enjoy!

Update:  Lost some bottom padding under posts, but cant figure out how to fix it :P Ah well, nothing major. That tricksy padding was trumped by some margin-top with a new class :P

Monday, December 14, 2009

Team Fortress 2 - Crafting

The upcoming Team Fortress 2 update is getting more interesting by the day.  A new crafting webpage has appeared as part of the update, with a promising opening:
For years you have been able to create weapons with your bare hands, using raw steel, in real life. What if we were to tell you there’s now a way to SIMULATE that in-game?
Apparently this will run off of blueprints where various items can be combined to create the item you want. A screen shot of the crafting screen is below:



Valve never ceases to amaze me with the updates for TF2.

Update: Also found http://www.teamfortress.com/war/saxtonhale/poopyjoe.htm

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Economy of FREE

FREE, 29 holiday song downloads on Amazon. You clicked.  I know you did.  It's ok, I'll wait for you to get Silent Night playing in the background before you come back to read this post.  FREE is hard to resist, especially with no strings attached.  FREE is also worth money, because out of the hundreds of people that download a FREE song, some will end up buying one.

Gamasutra has some hard numbers: 58% Of PlaySpan Users Buy Goods From Free-To-Play Games
And not only did free-to-play games see the highest purchase penetration among users, they also generated the most money on a per-user basis. The average user's expenditure on publisher-sold free-to-play digital goods over the course of 12 months was $75, compared to $60 for MMOs, and $50 for social network games.
F2P games, with micro transactions, serve all levels of investment from players. There is no barrier to entry because its free to play, increasing the potential audience. Those willing to spend very little, can still access the game, earning money from a market segment that the subscription model misses. Those willing to pay more are allowed to do so and are not capped at their monthly subscription cost. Both end up supporting the ability for free riders to hitch on at no cost.  A free rider being just another sales opportunity.

World of Warcraft has forever cemented the subscription model as valid. F2P games are quickly validating micro-transactions.  This is not an argument that F2P is better than the subscription model. It shows that the F2P model is working and that those people screaming about $10 horses are falling behind the times. Also, it shows that advertising can be done with the product, not flashy Mr T commercials (as epic as they are).  That's a win for the customer as we get a free game to play, no strings attached.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Allods Online: Fatigue is pretty smart

The fatigue system in Allods Online is pretty smart.  Players have a fatigue pool that is filled every time they gain experience.  Fatigue is gained on a 1 to 1 basis to experience and is displayed as the blue portion of the experience bar. At any time, fatigue can be turned in at an innkeeper for experience (also on a 1:1 basis).  The fatigue pool is limited and only so much can be gained in a single day.

This is not immediately obvious, but when fatigue is maxed out, a player is effectively cut to 50% of their normal experience gain.  However, Allods does this in a very smart way which I agree wholeheartedly with.


Site Updates Incoming, Need Your Eyeballs (and browsers)

My new template is nearing completion and can be viewed at http://test.heartlessgamer.com. Please check it out and let me know if it appears that something is not working. Currently built to run best in Firefox 3+, but no known issues with IE8 or Google Chrome.

A live version using this template can be viewed at http://reviews.heartlessgamer.com. The rest of my sites will be moved this weekend pending any disasters discovered today.

General comments on the design are welcome.
Thanks!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Multiplaying.net Site of the Week

Multiplaying.net has picked Heartlessgamer.com as their site of the week.

Thanks!

DISQUS comments fixed! Yay!

@DISQUS has helped me identify and remove the offending java script that was causing comments to fail on heartlessgamer.com. Everyone should be able to post without issue now, guest or not.

Please give them a try below.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Micro-transactions and Battlefield Heroes Beta

EA Dice made some unpopular changes to the pricing model in the free-to-play (F2P), but supported by micro-transactions Battlefield: Heroes. Ars Technica has an article with the basics:
You could buy certain items to give yourself an edge, sure, but it was just as easy to earn in-game Valor Points (VP) to purchase weapons and widgets for use in the game. Many gamers did just this, earning VP in their regular gaming session without ever paying a dime. Others made a few purchases here and there to round out their items.
With micro-transactions all the rage right now, this has created a shit-storm around the blog-o-sphere. I find myself having to step in and defend the unpopular view.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Heartlessgamer.com Giveaway: Allods Online Beta Keys


Sorry, ALL KEYS ARE GONE
!

I will update this post if I receive any more keys.

On Monetizing MMO Blogs

Recently, I asked for some feedback on the site, as well as opinions on MMO bloggers monetizing their blogs.

First, I run advertisements in three forms on this blog currently: in-line text ads, search traffic only ads, and referral links. The first two are powered by Chitika and pay per click. The referral links are to Amazon.com and pay a percentage of any purchases made via that link.

What do you need the money for?

The biggest question that people ask me is what I do with the money I earn. The blog is free to host on Google's Blogger, so there are no web costs (outside of an annual $10 domain registration fee). And it's pretty obvious I don't make my living doing this.

I use the money to pay for some of my gaming. When my blog was more popular (my traffic is down 50%+ this year), I made enough for a monthly subscription to an MMO. Recently, I have used it to micro-transact in games like Battlefield Heroes and Domain of Heroes.

However, since I've not played a subscription game in a while, I have pocketed a good amount of the money made (actually its sitting in my Paypal account). My most recent game purchases have been covered by bonuses I've gotten from work.

The Amazon.com referral links pay out via Amazon gift certificates. When I earn enough for my first gift certificate there, I will purchase more games, books, and movies to write about on this blog.

For the most part, the money earned here can be viewed as an investment back into the blog. However, it still leaves me sitting on a pile of cash that I haven't spent and I am going to work out a percentage to donate to Child's Play (my favorite charity). Going forward, charity will have a lot to do with the money made here after my minimal new web costs are covered (I am bringing some new stuff online in the near future).

Feedback

Surprisingly, most people that left feedback were fine with bloggers monetizing their blogs as long as it wasn't intrusive or contradicting(for example, gold seller ads when I am against gold selling). Chitika has been good about running legit advertisements, but they rarely match search ads to anything my readers would be interested in.

The Amazon.com referral links are more targeted. If I talk about a game, I will usually link to the games page on Amazon. If I review a book or movie, I will also link to Amazon. Or when Amazon runs deals like $3 in FREE MP3s, I will link to the promotional page and collect referrals as people cash in the free codes. This is hit or miss, but is the least intrusive of all advertising and the most honest.

With the feedback gathered, I think I am going to move towards straight Amazon.com referral-based advertising and be more open about my links. Along with the charitable giving, I am hoping this honesty will spur some purchases!

Lastly, I am going to take down the in-line text ads, as well as the search based ads from Chitika on the main page. I'm always open to advertising opportunities, so some form of automated advertising may return in the future.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

DISQUS fix, need testers

Update: 4 Dec, 2009 - Thanks for the help so far. If you are seeing "There was an error with your submission. Please make sure you are actually logged in." as a guest, I am working on it.
I have worked with @DISQUS to resolve some issues with DISQUS comments on the site. I am trying to find out from people that have been having problems if it is any better. So if everyone could please try and leave a comment here for testing, it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Initial Impressions: Allods Online (beta 2)


Allods Online looks like World of Warcraft. It also feels and plays like WoW. This is a compliment, because Allods Online is a good, fun game to play

Allods Online is an upcoming free-to-play (F2P), but supported by micro-transactions game from gPotato and Astrum Nival. It entered closed beta 2 yesterday and I was able to put a couple hours into it.

As with WoW, Allods is divided into two factions: Empire and League. Both sides offer similar classes, albeit named differently based on race. At this point, I am unsure how much of a difference between factions the classes enjoy.

I chose to go with an Arisen Occultist (which is of the Psionicist archetype, Empire faction). The Arisen are an undead-like, mechanical race. They are Allods' version of WoW's undead, as almost everyone in game alludes to.

I guess I should cover that up front. Everyone in game won't shut up about WoW this and WoW that, but its understandable as it happens in all new MMOGs. Even in ones that aren't anything like WoW. This is a deal killer for some and has others quickly searching for the chat options to kill general chat. Personally, I just ignore it.

Back to my Occultist. This caster class works on a mental link mechanic whereby all my attacks against the linked target have some sort of benefit. I can then terminate that link, dealing a significant portion of damage. At first the mechanic is confusing as there are hidden benefits not immediately explained that reduce cast time and offer additional attacks (a DoT, stun, and an extra nuke). After a few levels, I am cruising with this guy.

User Interface (UI)

The UI for Allods is familiar to anyone that has played a diku-inspired MMOG in the last decade. It most closely resembles WoW's and again that is a compliment. Many games try, but fail to emulate some of WoW's better features such as the UI. There are hotbars, menus, a quest tracker, and a familiar looking character info pane.


The only missing item is a minimap, but the larger world map works well. I have not investigated whether a minimap is even available.

Combat

A lot of previews have stated that combat in Allods is slow, but in my experience the speed felt right. It was also smooth and enjoyable. Responsiveness is a bit off at times, but that could be related to the server debugging going on.

Technical

There is only one US server and it had a rough start. At first no one could connect and then after a couple hours it crashed and a login queue was put into place. This morning I did not encounter a queue and was able to play without issue.

I am able to run the game at maximum settings without a hitch (quadcore CPU, Nvidia GTX 260 graphics card, 4Gb RAM, Windows 7 Pro x64). My only graphical complaint is that the viewing distance is tiny, but this is the same complaint I have with WoW's limited viewing distance. In crowded areas, to save on performance, only so much is loaded, which often leads to moments where you think the way ahead is clear only to move five feet and find out there are 10 people standing there instead.

Little Things


There are little things that separate Allods from WoW and other MMOGs.

An immediately noticeable and welcome feature is how rest experience works. Instead of accruing rest exp while logged out, players gain fatigue while fighting/completing quests. This fatigue can be traded in at innkeepers for experience. I am unsure if excess fatigue negatively affects a player or not.

Death is handled via a purgatory mechanic. Upon death players are banished to a small zone with other dead players. They are given the choice to wait a short period of time for a free resurrection or pay with experience debt for an immediate revival. There are also consumable items available in game that can be used to escape purgatory unscathed.

There are some fairly unique classes and races in the game. The Gibberlings race features three small furry avatars that act as one. Summoner classes have non-standard pets, such as the Orc's pet Gnome. Also the associated class for the archetypes are named different for each faction, giving a hint of uniqueness.

With these minor differences, there are some significant ones such as Astral Ships that will be revealed in the later levels of Allods Online. Beta 2 is capped at level 20 and limited to certain zones.

Conclusion

I'm being fairly positive in this initial impressions post because Allods came out of left field and surprised me. As I started with, Allods is a good game. The WoW comparisons are endless, but that's a good thing. Other F2P games like Runes of Magic made me want to go back and play WoW. Allods, so far, has made me want to log back in and play Allods. This game may be the F2P equivalent to WoW I've been looking for.


My Allods Online photo album is available via Flickr.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Nov 2009: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

Previous months: Oct 2009, Sept 2009

Check out the "What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying" Google Spreadsheet.


Commentary:

November was a fairly simple month for me. Left 4 Dead 2 launched and then December was here before I knew it. As my only gaming purchase, L4D2 set me back $45 (and would have been only $34 had I not waited so long and went in on a 4-pack with friends).

Before I get to L4D2, I want to mention that I did play some other games this month. I finished my first playthrough of Borderlands and am working on a review of the game as I play through it a second time. Its a good game, not great and misses on just about every category. Fortunately, there is a shitload of guns to make up for it.

Also, I took advantage of the six free months for Pirates of the Burning Seas. I like the game, but it was just a bad month to get started...

... because Left 4 Dead 2 took up the majority of my time! I posted my initial impressions and I'm still amazed by this game. Its tons of fun and improves on the game in almost every category. My only complaint is that the new survivors are not as "awesome" as the first four. I miss Bill.

Conclusion:

Free MMOs, that aren't normally free, are awesome, even if I don't have a lot of time to play them. Steam continues to prove its value with another pre-order special and on-time release with a preload of the game.

Upcoming changes:

I started using Xfire again this month and that is going to change these monthly What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying posts for the better as I get more granular data on how long I'm playing each game. Expect a new, more detailed spreadsheet next month. This is part of a move towards changes in how I want to run this blog (or is this a website now?).

Hurry, Get an Allods Online Beta Key!

Allods Online hits beta 2 today.
Gala-Net, Inc., a leading free-to-play online game publisher, announced today their second Closed Beta Test (CBT) for Allods Online in the North American market. The second CBT will run from December 1st through December 15th and will enhance the user experience with brand new content.
To get a key, follow one of the below links:

I have keys available!

MMORPG.com
Massively

Ocean Water Moved By The Moon

Someone has invited you to preview Google Wave!

Google Wave is a new online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Learn more at wave.google.com.

This is still an early preview of Google Wave, so you may run into some bumps along the way but we look forward to your feedback.
Makes me think of this article: Google Wave: we came, we saw, we played D&D.
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