SOE Closes Three Studios and Lays Off 205 People

 Well, this just plain sucks.  There's not a good way to say it -- especially since I'm very biased, with some good friends involved -- but Sony Online Entertainment has shut down three studios, laying off 205 people!  Bugger.  I've got good friends in the SOE Denver studio, so this hits me a bit harder than this news might otherwise, but is bummer news any way you get it.  I hate to see creative teams disassembled like this.  Best of luck to all of those displaced.  I hope you all find new places to create as soon as possible.

Here's the news via Gamasutra: SOE Hit With 205 Layoffs, Three Studio Closures, "Agency" Cancelled

Incidentally, this also marks yet another blow on the console MMO front, as The Agency was looking to be a big entrant into that field.  It seems that Sony's push for MMOs on the PS3 is still struggling to gain traction... understatement, I suppose.

Hi-Rez Studios Pledges 100% of Global Agenda Weekend Sales To Japan Relief

 I'll just cut right to the full press release on this one.  Maybe there are some people interested in getting in on this -- a place to donate a small amount towards Japan relief efforts, while getting a game in return:

Shooter MMO On Sale For $9.99 Thru Sunday With All Proceeds Going To Red Cross

ATLANTA - March 18, 2011 — In response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, Hi-Rez Studios has pledged to donate 100% of this weekend’s website game sales to Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief effort:

Effective 1pm EST today Friday March 18, through midnight on Sunday March 20, 2011, the Shooter MMO Global Agenda is being discounted to $9.99 on the Hi-Rez Studios web store (down from the regular price of $29.99) and all game sale proceeds will be donated toward relief activities.

This promotion and donation opportunity is available to gamers world-wide at www.globalagendagame.com/japanrelief

Global Agenda community members and supporters are encouraged to spread the word about this weekend donation opportunity, as well as other efforts around the world to help the people of Japan. Additional donations can be made by visiting the Red Cross website.

Eternal Destiny Begins Open Beta Testing

Press Release Summary:

 Don't hold me to this, as these aren't my words: "Eternal Destiny, The Most Anticipated Browser Based MMORPG In 2011 Begins Its Open Beta Testing On WarpPortal.com."  Yeah, I don't know which official source of poll data is pulled from to produce this coveted "most anticipated" title, any more than I understand how the guy down at the corner cafe can claim in foot-high painted windows that he serves "The Worlds Best Cup of Coffee!"

At any rate, maybe you know about this game and are very much anticipating its release?  I'm way too short on time to play even a small percentage of the games out in the world right now, so hopefully this is something you folks will be interested in and want to take part in.  After all, people are always asking me if/when there are going to be open betas they can dive into.  Here you go!  The open beta runs through to the 24th of March, so get crackin'.

Of special note this time is that they're offering up some special goodies for these early testers that will persist in their accounts through to the launch of the game.  That's pretty slick, I figure.  Check out the full press release after the break and go to the WarpPortal.com site to get signed up. (No special codes required. Just run over and sign up.)

Rift Extends Discounted "Founder's Pricing" To March 31st

 Trion Worlds has announced the extension of their early-adopters' Founder's Pricing discounts.  Previously available only for the first couple weeks after launch (through March 15th), the extension puts the availability until March 31st, 2011.  The discounts are available for multi-month subscriptions of 3 months ($11.99/month) or 6 months ($9.99/month), down from the monthly price of $14.99.  This should relieve some pressure on the less decisive among who are considering a longer-term plunge.

Full press release right here since it's so short:

Trion Worlds today announced that the “Founder’s Pricing” plan for the studio’s recently released MMORPG Rift™ has been extended until March 31st. Exclusively available to early adopters of the online fantasy game, the Founder’s Pricing plan features a $9.99 USD/month price for a multi-month subscription. For more information on Founder’s Pricing, along with details on additional subscription plans, please visit www.RIFTgame.com/subscriptions.  

RIFT Opens Today

Press Release Summary:

 (Urgh.. that headline was a very unintended pun, but I'm leaving it.)

Today marks the big launch of a big MMO by Trion Worlds called RIFT.  Numbers floating around claim pretty large initial player populations and there were a reported 31 new servers brought online for the launch, bringing the total up to a very impressive 99 server worlds split unequally between U.S. and European markets.  Pretty big launch, eh?

Rift has launched today (March 1, 2011) in the U.S. and will be available in Australia tomorrow, Europe on March 3rd and in the U.K. on Friday, March 4th.  Take note that their "Founder's Pricing" plans will provide for some discounts to long-term subscriptions if you sign up for them before March 15th. Details in the press release below.

The linked developer diary is worth a look to get some nice views into what the Rift team is striving for with this game: "This Is Rift" video developer diary.

Full press release after the break...

System Upgrades Afoot

 It's been quiet around here lately, as we've been preparing some big changes to both the hardware and software behind MassMOG.com.  I've been swamped with all the work that needs to be done, so posting has been suffering horribly.

Soon, we'll get back up and posting regularly again --- maybe with some new "faces" around here, too!

(Oh, that reminds me:  you want to write for us?  Apply here for a currently-volunteer position -- volunteer until you show you're committed and then we'll see about appropriate compensation:  Send us info about you and links to writing samples.)

Miner Wars Trailer and New Build Info

Press Release Summary:

 Just got a note from the folks at Keen Software House about their in-development MMO/singer-player space shooter called Miner Wars.  They've got a new trailer showcasing this "outer space First Person Shooter with a fully destructible environment."  To be clear, you're piloting a ship from a first-person perspective, so you won't be walking around as is typical from the FPS genre.  However, that doesn't make it look any less fun from an FPS-ey perspective.

Remember Descent?? That old-but-great game had a similar vibe to at least the initial look at Miner Wars -- you're piloting a ship that has full six degrees of freedom to fly around and shoot stuff.  Yay!  I loved Descent.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_(video_game) ) This time though, you get to blow up everything in front of you, apparently, meaning you can tunnel your way through the rock walls in front of you instead of just getting dizzy as you try to maneuver yourself into a proper orientation to fly through the environment.

I suppose since I brought up Descent, I should point out that the newest trailer was created by a member of the old Descent team, Dan Wentz.  He's the Audio Director on Miner Wars, incidentally, but my rummaging through their "team" list brought up no other Volition hits, so other Descent lineage appears to be in spirit more than direct aside from Mr. Wentz.  Cool enough though... just looking for some other familiar names from the way-back.  Anyway, check it out:

Great music and it's looking mighty-fine all around. Fully destructible environments coupled with the theme of being a deep-space asteroid miner gets me downright interested in checking this out more.  So... let's go see what they've got in store!  (Well, besides an early-adopter discount of 70% to buy up the game now and get early access to another just-released alpha test of the game.  Nice!)

Full press release after the jump...

 

 

LEGO Universe Celebrates "Going Gold" at PAX Prime

 Huge news out of Louisville, CO today, as it's been announced that LEGO Universe has "gone gold" and will be available to play at the PAX Expo this weekend!  I've known many of the original guys at NetDevil for many years so I'm a little biased on this one.  They've gone through a lot over the years -- from a tiny start in a little office with game servers crammed in the corner, to a large warehouse transformed into a fantastic, creative space for their ever-growing team.  I can't deny that I just flat want this game to succeed.

There is still time to pre-order the game and get in on some special goodies, including early access to the game starting October 12 -- the game is set to launch October 26, 2010.  For the more adventurous among you, they are still accepting applications for the ongoing closed beta.

 

Red 5's "Project Offset"-Powered MMO Dev Continues

There is a lot of chatter going on around last week's announcement by Intel that it is cancelling its Project Offset development. The reason this matters in the MMO space is that the only (that I know of) project to officially license that magnificent engine for a game is Red 5 Studios. Since I can not play Project Offset (unless Fractiv, the new company formed by the ejected devs is taking over the PO reigns... hope, hope, hope!) I am now squarely watching Red 5 to see if they can pull out a game of a quality to match the wonder I've seen from the Project Offset demos.

The reason this is less exciting to me is that Red 5 has recently been acquired (a "majority interest" technically,) by The9 in China. Yep... there has been a lot of attention paid by R5 over the years towards the specific catering to "the Asian market and what makes a game fun to play for their tastes." (That's a paraphrased quote pulled from 3 year-old memory, but I can't find the original interview.) Whether the game they're working on will be something I care to play is unclear, as they still have not announced what they're actually creating. One thing I imagine to be true is that it will look friggin' stunning.

Gamasutra also has some more background and quote-y text about Red 5's continuance: "Red 5's Offset Engine-Powered MMO Still On, Despite Offset Cancelation"

Dual-Spec Doritos FTW -- (NSFW!)

My good friend @Gloobert sent over a link to this hilarious, VERY NSFW music video made by a guy he works with. It's funny, but again, not safe for work.

So many great quotes from this rap video, but I'm not really sure what else to say, so I'll get out of the way. This video's been around for 6 months and only has a couple thousand views... let's do something about that:

While you're at it, you really ought to check out more of the Bootlegblackguys videos. There's some great stuff in there.

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