March 15, 2012 | 9:00 a.m.

EverQuest abandons monthly fee to bring back lost players

EverQuest, once the king of all massively multiplayer online games, will open the doors of its virtual fantasy kingdom to all on Friday as a free game. The move by Sony Online Entertainment is part of a broader effort by the company to shift its online titles toward the more popular free model, in which games make money selling virtual goods rather than charging a monthly fee, typically $15. Sony, for example, decided to make parts of its DC Universe Online game available for free last year in order to lure more players. Launched 13 years ago, EverQuest defined the massively multiplayer online, or MMO, genre long before World of Warcraft came around in 2004. But Warcraft gradually eclipsed EverQuest as well as its successor, EverQuest II, and amassed 12 million subscribers at its peak in October 2010. Sony will not […]
Jan. 20, 2012 | 5:32 a.m.

Star Wars: The Old Republic — the story behind a galactic gamble

It may be the largest entertainment production in history. More than 800 people on four continents have spent six years and nearly $200 million creating it. The story runs 1,600 hours, with hundreds of additional hours still being written. Nearly 1,000 actors have recorded dialogue for 4,000 characters in three languages. The narrative is so huge that writers created a 1,000-page “bible” to keep the details straight, and the director recently asked a colleague not to spoil moments he hadn’t yet seen. It’s not a movie or a TV series. It’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, the most expensive, ambitious and riskiest video game ever produced. Created out of a 60,000-square-foot converted warehouse next to a cooking school on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, the Old Republic is proof that while box-office, network TV ratings and music sales are slumping, […]
Sept. 28, 2011 | 4:56 p.m.

‘Unicorn City’ brings LARPing to San Diego Film Festival

A quixotic table-top gamer tries to bring his Dungeons & Dragons-esque adventures to life with a mountain utopia called Unicorn City in an independent film by the same name. “Unicorn City” has been making the rounds at comic conventions across the country, and snagged the “Best Feature Film” title at Gen Con in August. The film is the brainchild of first-time director Bryan Lefler and his brother, co-writer and producer Adrian Lefler. The pair tapped into a Brigham Young University film program — administrated by their father and “Unicorn City” executive producer Tom Lefler — that allows students to team up with professionals to make feature films. The film is screening Thursday and Saturday at the Gaslamp Theater for the San Diego Film Festival. Hero Complex writer Noelene Clark caught up with Bryan Lefler, whose previous credits include storyboard artist […]
Sept. 09, 2009 | 2:00 p.m.

World of Warcraft, a magical place to play — or a digital dungeon of obsession?

One of the great thrills for any staff writer at the Los Angeles Times is to get a story selected for Column One, the paper’s longstanding feature on the front page where writing, depth and insight are emphasized over news-of-the-day urgency. In today’s paper, the Column One belongs to Ben Fritz, a welcome new addition to the Business section staff, who walked among the curious tribes that play World of Warcraft. Here’s an excerpt… Getting divorced was a lonely experience for Josh Schweitzer. Spending his days overseeing construction workers and his evenings caring for his 3-year-old son, he had no one to talk to. But there was one group of people who helped him pull through — even though he’d never laid eyes on most of them. They were his Schweitzer’s friends in the Dread Pirates guild are a tiny subset of the 11.5 million […]
Aug. 17, 2009 | 2:02 p.m.

Capes, tights and gigabytes — Champions Online (beta) launches

The evolution of storytelling continues as Atari and Cryptic Studios combine to introduce Champions Online (open beta testing begins today), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game that lets participants create their own heroes and villains. Like Cryptic’s other successful PC gamers, City of Heroes and City of Villains, players are allowed to make their own characters to roam the world (and beyond) and take on assignments/missions in a fully immersed world, interacting with other creations and established characters.  Though its beta version is just launching online now, the Champions superhero role-playing game book was published back in 1981, making it one of the first.  The rules and worlds from the book and its many updates will form the basis of how people play, with obvious additions. So what’s the difference between Champions Online and other MMORPGs?  It seems to be the […]
Aug. 08, 2008 | 7:50 p.m.

‘Star Trek’ hits another frontier: Online gaming

"I’m a doctor, Jim, not a massively multiplayer online-role-playing game designer!" I’m sure McCoy, Scotty, Data and Geordi could’ve gotten it going, but finally, "Star Trek Online" (with no official release date set) will boldly go where lots of games already are.  Leonard Nimoy is set to introduce the world to the immersive experience at a "Star Trek" convention Sunday in Las Vegas at the Gene Roddenberry Theater inside the Las Vegas Hilton. The intro and panel will also be broadcast live at Cryptic Studios Inc., the developer originally responsible for "City of Heroes" and "City of Villains," snatched the franchise from Perpetual Entertainment.  Cryptic Chief Creative Officer Jack Emmert says it was a no-brainer. "As it became apparent they weren’t going to continue to function, they decided to sell off the license. We swooped in and grabbed it. […]
July 29, 2008 | 10:42 a.m.

Cryptic Studios takes over Star Trek Online and there was much rejoicing.

Cryptic Studios have (finally after over a month of having us all staring at a countdown clock) officially announced they are the new developer of the Star Trek Online MMORPG. Thanks to their mostly functional website, you can grab a sneak peek of screen shots, new game details and oh look, another countdown timer for Star Trek‘s Vegas Con which begins in only two weeks. *nudges LA Times– SEND ME. ahheeemm. me me me me me* The great news is that Cryptic has a proven track record when in comes to MMORPGS with City of Heroes, City of Villains and their upcoming Champions Online. If you want my opinion, Perpetual Entertainment’s financial crash and burn was the best thing that could happen for Star Trek Online.  Plus Cryptic took the safe route and set the game to take place during […]
July 23, 2008 | 4:34 a.m.

Two servings of awesome: DC Universe online and G.I. Joe’s webisodes

If you have been following the DC Universe Online MMORPG development, you know it’s been a stop and go project for quite some time.  It now appears that all things have been green lighted and as a result, DC has finally released a few screenshots and some delightful concept art (easy access courtesy of IGN). Oh yes and it’s about time too. I for one hope DC Universe Online is a thriving success and I think with Jim Lee onboard it stands a fighting chance. Perhaps by the time it goes into beta, I will be bored to tears with Age of Conan. Unlikely, but surely I can multi-task both. Goodbye, social life. Be sure to watch the promo video for DCU too and please try to ignore the really awful voiceover. In completely unrelated news, Hasbro will be debuting […]
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