Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment today announced that a fifth expansion to its Lord of the Rings Online free-to-play MMORPG, Helm's Deep, is slated for release this Fall. The new expansion stretches the story into the western plans of Rohan where players will battle for direct control of Helm's Deep, introducing 10 new levels and advancing the level cap from 85 to 95 in the process.
Sauron, you might want to grow another gigantic, flaming eyeball to watch your back, because you're about to make a bunch of brand new enemies. Why? Because this fall, anyone and everyone – graphics cards willing – will be able to play Lord of the Rings Online for the same price as developer Turbine's other wildly successful MMO, Dungeons & Dragons Online. Which is to say: absolutely nothing.
“Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited was the world’s first truly premium free-to-play online game that ushered in a new era of choice for online gamers seeking quality entertainment,” said Jim Crowley, President and CEO of Turbine. “The popularity of DDO validated the extraordinary demand by gamers for quality entertainment they can experience at their own pace and within their budget. Extending free-to-play to LOTRO will offer another premium game to a broad spectrum of fans.”
Follwing in DDO's footsteps, Lord of the Rings Online will also allow players to get a little extra bang if they choose to part with a buck or two. The LOTRO Store will offer expansion packs, extra character customization options, and more, while the game's all-access VIP program will essentially function like subscription fees do right now.
Still though, you're getting close to the entirety of fairly fantastic fantasy MMO without spending a dime. You certainly won't see us complaining.
At first glance, you’d think Paltalk Holdings Inc. has a few loose screws rattling around in its head. After all, it recently declared legal war on a who’s-who list of big-name MMO developers: Blizzard (WoW), Turbine (Lord of the Rings Online), SOE (Everquest), NCSoft (Guild Wars, City of Heroes), Jagex (Runescape) – you name it. If you’re on top of the MMO world, Paltalk is trying to knock you down a peg or two. So, why would Paltalk risk getting torn to shreds by some of the fiercest lawyers in the videogame business? Easy – because the company already forced Microsoft to pony up an undisclosed sum with the very same lawsuit.
Paltalk holds a potent pair of patents that basically spell court-ordered doom for any massively multiplayer game publisher. These patents grant Paltalk providence over “sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.” Sound like any MMO you’ve ever played before? Because it sounds like every MMO we’ve ever played before.
So, will this super team of MMO publishers – forced together by circumstance – be able to overcome Paltalk and its sidekick, Johnny Law? Really, we have no idea. Are there any lawyers in the audience who might be able to give us a more solid answer?
After all those hip, flashy – even a bit sexy – delays and lawsuits, we nearly forgot that there was actually a game attached to this Dungeons & Dragons Online business. But there is! And it’s good! So when Turbine sent us a press release heralding the free-to-play MMO’s launch, we decided to pass the “hear ye, hear ye” onto you, our lovely readers.
“Today Turbine changes the way gamers experience their online entertainment by providing them with a choice in how they pay and play for a premium MMO,” said Jim Crowley, CEO of Turbine, Inc. “The DDO Unlimited Beta program has been a huge success and the initial response to the game from both press and players has been nothing short of phenomenal. In response, we have already more than doubled our capacity to handle the increased demand.”
Want to know more about the game? Go here. If you’ve already loaded up on potions and traded your real-life D&D buddies for a decent gaming rig, however, your quest is nearly at an end. Just head over to DDO’s website, download the game client, and enjoy!
What? Were you expecting Atari put on an impish grin and let an, “Oops! You got me!” while a studio audience chortled in the background? Nope – in response to Turbine’s recent lawsuit over a purported Dungeons & Dragons Online contract breach, Atari’s firing back. The gist of the publisher’s argument: Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Turbine?
“Last week, with no warning, Turbine filed what can only be viewed as a frivolous lawsuit against Atari. This action can ultimately do a great disservice to D&D fans and to the MMO community at large. Turbine’s actions also appear intended to divert attention from the contractual obligations that Turbine owes to Atari,” said a prepared statement by Atari.
“In response, today Atari served a motion to dismiss the entirety of Turbine's lawsuit. Atari also filed a separate complaint to recover monies owed to Atari resulting from an independent third party audit of Turbine. While Atari hopes for a quick and fair resolution, it remains fully committed to the D&D communities worldwide and will vigorously protect the franchise and its own integrity in this matter.”
This may be a contract dispute, but we’re thinking Atari and Turbine might as well invite their divorce lawyers over while they’re at it. We just can’t see this ending with the two companies on decent terms. Hurt feelings and bruised egos, here we come!
Atari, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. Or you will, anyway, if Dungeons & Dragons Online developer Turbine’s argument holds any water. The developer alleges that it came home from work one evening, only to find Atari in the arms of another D&D MMO. It seems, then, that trouble’s been brewing for a little while, as you’ll remember that we reported on the rumor of a Neverwinter Nights MMO a few months ago.
Citing what’s presumably that unconfirmed NWN MMO, Turbine has thrown the legal equivalent of a magic missile at Atari, accusing the publisher of fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. The gist of it goes like this: Atari allegedly planned to “terminate” its agreement with Turbine under false pretenses. Turbine suspected that Atari would “either terminate Turbine as part of a shakedown, or proceed with termination in bad faith to benefit from its own competing product at Turbine's expense.” That “competing product” is, in all likelihood, the NWN MMO.
On top of that, Turbine claims that Atari “failed to devote necessary resources” to Dungeons & Dragons Online, and “breached the agreements by accepting payments - including future royalty payments - in return for extending their relationship and paving the way for the launch of Turbine's free-to-play ‘DDO: Unlimited’ service, though Atari knew it would not perform its obligations under the agreements and knew it would pretextually seek to declare Turbine in breach of the agreements.”
Long story short: things are about to get ugly. How ugly? Well, why don’t you ask 3D Realms and Take-Two? We hear that “breach of contract” stuff flies really well in their parts.
“While we are very pleased with the performance of the game and are excited about the response from the players, we are committed to delivering a high-quality experience. We feel that more time is needed to deliver on this commitment,” said Fernando Paiz, Executive Producer of DDO Unlimited, in a press release.
“We feel that more time is needed to deliver on this commitment. As a result, we are delaying our launch to ensure that we can support the massive increase in players that we are expecting and deliver them a free to play experience like none other.”
The free update was originally set to go live on August 4. Now it’s not. Really though, this delay’s nothing. If you want something to do in the meantime, go check out our preview of the game. By the time you’re done reading, the update will probably have landed, settled down, and started a family in a scenic rural area. Wake us when a game gets pushed into 2011. Then we’ll talk.
MMOs are a dime a dozen these days, but what about quality MMOs that don’t even cost a dime? Those, of course, are a tad harder to come by. That’s where Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited comes in. Formerly a subscription-based MMO, DDO’s knocking down its “You Must Have This Much Disposable Income to Enter” gate and letting everyone join the party. Thinking that’s all DDO has going for it, however, would be a grievous mistake. Why? Well, we’ve got exactly five reasons. Convenient, right?
1. Anyone can play it – No, seriously, anyone. During our time with the game, we were amazed at how carefully Turbine smoothed over many of the bumps on the road to MMO enjoyment. Most noticeably, the game now includes a context-sensitive hint system that nudges you in the right direction based on what you’re doing. So say you’re stumbling through your first dungeon and walk right into a fire elemental. Demonstrating your incredible knowledge of cultural idioms, you decide to fight fire with fire, literally. This, however, only heals the elemental. In this case, the game would point out that you’re doin’ it wrong, and tell you to use a different type of spell.
The game also includes pre-generated class paths for players who don’t understand D&D’s rule set, and dungeons that tailor themselves to your party’s particular setup. So say, for instance, that your cleric just left the party. In any other MMO, you’d be hurting something fierce for a healer, but in DDO, the dungeon will alter its setup, making sure that your healer-less party still has a shot at success.
Is the whole thing too good to be true? Find out after the break.
Dungeons & Dragons Online, like the lion’s share of MMOs out there, has undergone countless changes since it launched, but never something this huge. Previously a subscription-based game, DDO is just about to engage the landing gear on its brand new free-to-play option, which brings with it new features of all shapes and sizes. We spoke with senior producer Kate Paiz about DDO’s latest makeover, chatting about topics including the DDO Store’s effects on game balance, the when’s and why’s of DDO’s new free-to-play model, the recent sale of id Software, and much, much more.
Seriously, grab a sandwich or something. This one’s a doozy.
What prompted the decision to go free-to-play? Why move away from a subscription focus?
Ever since we’ve launched, we’ve gotten feedback from players that we’re just a different kind of MMO; we don’t have the same kind of basic gameplay mechanics as a lot of other, more traditional MMOs do. We have a lot of private, party-based instances. We give XP based on the completion of an adventure, of conquering a goal. So you saved the girl, right? You know, destroyed the weapon – completed something that was a little more epic than just killing monsters. It’s a bigger task. And because we’re based so faithfully on the [D&D] 3.5 rule set, there are also just some basic mechanics that differed [from other MMOs].
So one of the things that we hear all the time is that because we’re not that traditional MMO, and because research has shown that one of the barriers to joining an MMO is the subscription price, we felt like it made more sense to pull from D&D’s roots and go back to sort of a more module-based purchasing option, where players get a certain amount of content, like the players’ handbook, right up front, and then they can use that as much as they want and then purchase additional content when they want, the way they want – rather than being locked into a subscription fee.
Continue spelunking this verbal dungeon after the break.
The MMO market’s not exactly the nicestneighborhood for developers to settle down in these days, but that certainly doesn’t mean carving out a lucrative niche is impossible. Case in point: Lord of the Rings Online. While it may not be the One MMO to rule them all, LotRO is still inhaling customers like hobbits inhale breakfasts. Turbine live producer Aaron Campbell explained:
“If anything, The Lord of the Rings Online is growing. We have no plans to merge servers.”
“And please don’t mention it, it makes me twitch unpleasantly,” he added, probably twitching unpleasantly.
Good to hear that tons of wannabe Frodos and Aragorns are still flocking to LotRO, though. Granted, the game shares a bunch of gameplay similarities with WoW and leverages one of the most powerful brands on earth, so the game's a tad more accessible than other MMOs. But still. Keeping an MMO afloat is no easy task. Good job, Turbine.