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  ‘World of Warcraft’ Expands in China  
Posted 2005-10-15 by Tony Walsh
Popular massively-multiplayer game World of Warcraft (WoW) has pushed further into Chinese territory. Six weeks after Blizzard Entertainment first launched the game in China, WoW had already reached 1.5M subscribers. Chinese online game operator The9 announced yesterday that it will be broadening its WoW service to reach parts of China outside the mainland.

While WoW's subscriber base can only increase as a result of The9's expansion, Chinese gamers face the possibility of government-imposed restrictions on their virtual-world exploits. This summer, it was widely reported that Chinese gamers might be limited to playing online games for no more than 3 hours consecutively--a move geared towards reducing game addiction. A petition against the restriction was launched, hosted by The9 at The company told Interfax China that WoW already has an anti-addiction system built in. No such system seems to have been used in the North American or European versions of World of Warcraft. Are westerners less prone to game addiction?
  The Work of ‘Warcraft’  
Posted 2005-10-04 by Tony Walsh
The BBC covers popular massively-multiplayer game World of Warcraft for the second time in less than two weeks. In "A walk in the World of Warcraft," technology correspondent Mark Ward files his report from Azeroth, Warcraft's fictional world. Ward paints the basics of game play in wide brush strokes, revealing in a sidebar why massively-multiplayer games aren't for everyone. In "Tips for New Players," newbies are advised to avoid an "exercise in frustration," "work on lots of quests," "work the map," and "work hard." There's a whole lot of work going on, not only in Azeroth, but within the environs of nearly every massively-multiplayer online game (MMOG) out there.

If World of Warcraft and other MMOGs sound more like a career to you, it's because in many cases, these games require the same dedication and care as real work--it's not by chance that working up the levels in a game like World of Warcraft is called "the grind." Mark Wallace, a freelance journalist who (among other beats) covers virtual worlds from all angles, says that when grinding EVE Online, he does so "with a notebook, a calculator and a second computer screen showing some spreadsheet or forum page in front of me." Wallace takes his game experience seriously, but he's not an exceptional case. Some players invest game play hours equivalent to a second job so their characters will "level up" faster. A small percentage engage in "gold farming" or virtual property transactions to make a living, exchanging or re-selling virtual goods at real-world prices.

I'm thrilled the BBC is mainstreaming massively-multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft. But the first thing a potential player should know is that MMOGs are the last place they'll find an escape from work.
  One-Upped in Hidden ‘Warcraft’ Areas  
Posted 2005-10-03 by Tony Walsh
's Scott Sharkey reveals several hidden areas of the massively-multiplayer game World of Warcraft, apparently discovered by hacking into the client software. Sharkey doesn't detail the hacking techniques or if he performed them himself. For all we know, he reposted pictorial evidence of someone else's hack attack. Frankly, in my books, peeking into the client software with "the right tools" is a lame way to find secret areas. A real adventurer cracks the world open from the inside.
  Virtual Virus Plagues ‘World of Warcraft’  
Posted 2005-09-18 by Tony Walsh
According to Shacknews reader pigz [tip via EA], a new area boss in World of Warcraft is giving adventurers more than they bargained for. Characters fighting the boss are becoming infected with "Corrupted Blood," a contagion designed by the game's developers that is bothersome to high-level characters, but will outright kill low-level characters. According to pigz, the disease has been transmitted from players returning from the area of Zul'Gurub. It is then spread among the general population, including computer-controlled characters. "Some servers have gotten so bad that you can't go into the major cities without getting the plague," said pigz.

The virulence of the Corrupted Blood effect seems to have surprised Game Masters in charge of moderating the game play of World of Warcraft. According to pigz, GMs have quarrantined certain players, but have not been able to contain the outbreak.

This is the first case I am aware of where a video game virus created by the game's developers has proven to have such dangerous and sweeping in-game effects. In the virtual world of Second Life, users have worked to create their own diseases and virii.
  WoW Cultural Criticism  
Posted 2005-09-16 by Tony Walsh
A letter supposedly distributed at Western Washington University about the social evils of World of Warcraft was later said to be a hoax, but it still paints a humourously-accurate picture of MMORPG culture in general, and WoW specifically. Highlights:
  • "Realistically, most girls despise World of Warcraft....we absolutely DO NOT care how 'f-ing' hot your character is (her boyfriend has a female night elf.)"
  • "Don't you have class or something? It seems to me that we live in a government sponsored insitution, NOT in your mom’s basement."
  • "What the hell are those stupid headsets? Do you work in the Taco Bell drive-thru? It sure smells like it on your floor."
  • "I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing I see is someone running down the hall with a pillowcase cape tied around their neck, scantily clad in Power Rangers underwear, crying because so-and-so just stole their star wars action figure or holographic Pokemon card."

It's funny because it's true. Thanks for the tip, Sean.
  MMOG Manifesto  
Posted 2005-08-30 by Tony Walsh
Behold the insightful and topical MMOG manifesto by underpants-wearing game analyst Babylona. My favourite points:
    3. Innovation makes money. This has been proven time and time again.
    4. People, en masse, are extremely smart. (Individually is often a very different story.) Underestimating this has probably cost game companies – in terms of exploits, hacks, bugs, support, etc., more money than one would like to think.
    5. There are ways to share control of a world that live in a space between Second Life – and its attendant ethical issues now that #4 has been proven to be true – and more traditional MMOGs.
    11. Players who have something to say deserve to be listened to.
    13. Give them control over the world and they will reward you a hundred times over. Figure out a way to make that work AND make you money.

I think the sum of all the parts here is that MMOG customers are a valuable resource that could contribute to a game's growth beyond the initial purchase and subscription fees, if only they were taken seriously and/or managed with respect. Some game companies are better at this than others, although I wonder what World of Warcraft's magic bullet has been--players aren't really leveraged to their potential, but the game's done extremely well.
  ‘World of Warcraft’ Snags 1M+ North American Subscribers  
Posted 2005-08-29 by Tony Walsh
Popular massively-multiplayer online game World of Warcraft has attracted more than a million North American subscribers. This, according to developer Blizzard, brings the game's worldwide population to over 4 million. In March of this year, worldwide subscribership had reached 1.5M customers and in July, over 3.5M since its November 2004 launch. World of Warcraft's impressive North American numbers make the game the most popular of its kind in that region's history.
  Comic Nerds Destroy Game Server  
Posted 2005-08-03 by Tony Walsh
Fans of the popular web comic Penny Arcade flocked to the popular online game World of Warcraft last night, breaking a server. Penny Arcade overlord Gabriel mulled over the madness: "It appears as though we make up nearly the entire alliance population... Guild invites stopped working entirely and eventually players had to wait in line to access the server... We were receiving PM's faster than we could possibly respond to them and so we had people form lines in Stormwind and Ironforge... The new areas were so full of people that we killed all the monsters in the zone and people were just standing around waiting for the next wolf to respawn."

About six hundred Penny Arcaders stormed the Dark Iron server, forming the guilds Knights of Arcadia and Fancy Lads. They have declared war on the Panda Attack guild. And it is thusly that comic nerds settle their scores. [thanks for the tip, gatmog]
  ‘World of Warcraft’ Dead Zone Exploration  
Posted 2005-08-02 by Tony Walsh
‘World of Warcraft’ Dead Zone Exploration
Popular massively-multiplayer game World of Warcraft provides a large-scale world with two continents for adventurers to explore. I've been playing for about half a year, and have read reports of uncharted regions not meant for the eyes of players--these zones aren't intended to be accessible, but persistent gamers can't be stopped. Then there are accidental tourists, such as myself. A long swim along the north-eastern coast of the Eastern Kingdoms took me right off the map into what would best be described as a Dead Zone. Documentation of my discovery follows.

Continue reading: ‘World of Warcraft’ Dead Zone Exploration
  ‘World of Warcraft’ Wows China, World  
Posted 2005-07-21 by Tony Walsh
Massively-multiplayer online game World of Warcraft is shaping up to be one of the most popular in history. Since opening service in China on June 7, 2005, the game has claimed 1.5 milion subscribers in that country--almost half of the total worldwide customer base of 3.5 million subscribers. With such rapid growth in under two months, World of Warcraft looks like it's set to surpass the success of the Lineage online game, which has been very popular in Korea. At the rate WoW is sweeping the world, you can expect it to impact popular culture sooner or later. Leeroy Jenkins already had his 15 minutes of fame.
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