7 days around the MMO world (July 5)

American holidays always seem to muck things up in the way of good old beefy news updates, and unfortunately it seems MMOs are being effected by this as well. Don’t be disappointed quite yet though as we, of course, still have things to talk about. The lime light hog Blizzard is back in the MMO news this week with a sudden change to World of Warcraft and a interesting trademark, plus a new content patch for City of Heroes went live bringing back an enemy from days of yore.

This past week on the Blizzard forums something was announced that no player ever imagined would ever happen in a million years. Something that has been shot down constantly by Blizzard developers and community managers alike for years. Suddenly it seems that Blizzard has had a change of heart and has decided to let players change factions, for a fee of course. Details about the service have not be released but it is in our opinion that the price for the change will range between $10-25 dollars. If we had to speculate how the system would work, it would be either a one time change or a change that can only be done once within a certain time period, per-character of course. What implications this will have on server balances and imbalances is yet to be seen. If Blizzard was smart they would offer free one way switches to address server balance issues instead of free server moves.

Also this week it was discovered that Blizzard trademarked the name Cataclysm for a project we will undoubtedly hear more about in late August during BlizzCon. Speculation is flying but it seems that all signs point to it being some kind of MMO project. The details of the trademark are very revealing as part of the trademark is for “online entertainment services”. Some speculations suggest that it’s the next World of Warcraft expansion which would make sense as Blizzard has full intention to keep supporting WoW and Wrath of the Lich King is already beginning to get long in the tooth. We’ll have to wait until BlizzCon to find out but in the meantime we’ll have fun speculating what Blizzard is up to.

This past week City of Heroes had their 15th content update go live bringing back one of my personal favorite baddies in the game as the 5th Column make a return in the Anniversary update. Players are now able to participate in new missions for the level ranges 45-50 on both the villain and hero side that involve the 5th Column.

Players also get new customization options with costumes adding in 20 new faces and several new costume change emotes. The popular Architect system has also been updated complete with a dedicated chat channel for everyone to advertise spam each other to play each others missions. They also improved searching and testing tools for the Architect system.

Remember that OnLive thing everyone was talking about? Well, this isn’t that but something very similar. This is a project called Giakai which is a cloud computing service directed at PC gaming and browsers. Instead of using a piece of hardware in your living room, you just boot up your favorite browsers, log on and jump to it. If you watch the demo, you’ll see both World of Warcraft and EVE Online being played in what appears to be real-time.

The significance of this versus OnLive is that this video is an actual demo of the product in action. It’s also not based on hardware and all that required is a browser. It’s also significant to mention that David Perry who is a veteran game developer is leading the project. You might remember him from games like Earthworm Jim, MDK and that unfortunately buggy game Enter the Matrix. Knowing that a veteran game dev is behind the project throws some legitimacy behind a concept that is being met with a lot of skepticism. Of course we’ll all continue to play the wait and see game, but we’ll have to admit, this looks pretty damn cool.

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