Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Who was there: A massive panel of ArenaNet employees, including lead content designer Colin Johanson, game designer Jon Peters, community manager Regina Buenaobra, senior vice president Randy Price, lore designer Jeff Grubb, and more.
What they said: The Guild Wars 2 panel spoke to a packed house at this year's Penny Arcade Expo East. An extensive trailer for the game preceded the discussion and highlighted several of the talking points to be covered, including the game's active combat and the focus on player choice. When the trailer finished, the room erupted into thunderous applause.
After the audience had quieted down, Johanson spoke first. He had three key points to knock out of the way. First, is Guild Wars 2 going to be a "true" massively multiplayer online role-playing game? The answer was "yes," GW2 will be one giant, persistent world. Second, will there be jumping in GW2? Again, the answer was "yes," which was met with an excited round of applause. Third, will GW2 have a monthly subscription fee? This time, the answer was "no," which received even more applause than before, plus a little cheering.
With that out of the way, Johanson turned the conversation to how GW2 will be innovating on its predecessor, including the player's personal story, dynamic events, and combat. Beginning with personal story, Johanson stated that the team at ArenaNet has attempted to get players more invested in their characters by creating numerous branching paths in the story. The choices that can be made have tremendous consequences, including altering a character's unique home city. All of a player's actions will also be logged in a player journal, which the player can review to see past achievements.
Next, he spoke about the changes to how quests will be structured in GW2. The traditional setup of collecting a quest, completing it, and then retrieving a reward has been completely reimagined. Now, the world of GW2 will be populated by numerous dynamic quests--quests that are ongoing for the player to discover. The example given was of a pack of savage centaurs terrorizing the countryside. Players will battle these beasts for control of a settlement. Anyone can jump in once the fighting starts, and the event will scale according to how many "active players" are present.
If the players lose the battle with the centaurs, then they lose the use of that settlement. This marks the beginning of a quest chain and advances the scenario to the next level. Now, the centaurs have a foothold and will attempt to reinforce it by collecting wood from the forest. The players can engage them again in the woods, and whether they win or lose the chain will advance in another direction. This constant splitting of the chain means that once the chain resets, the content that can be experienced could be completely different.
Johanson then transitioned into his third point: combat and its focus on teamwork and active participation. One of the base rules of the game, he explained, was that rewards and experience are shared among those who participate in a fight; the player should always feel excited to see another player rushing over to help. For the combat specifics, Johanson turned the microphone over to Peters who explained that in GW2, they didn't want to pigeonhole characters into specific roles, such as tank, damage per second, or healer. Instead, no matter what the class, they want players to be switching between roles in combat on the fly.
Before handing the discussion off to the audience for a question-and-answer session, the panel loaded up a skills compilation video, which highlighted the abilities of the recently announced thief class. The video included snippets from five different thieves, including some who used high-explosive projectiles and others who preferred to teleport in and out of melee (or turn completely invisible).
The Q&A session began after that. One early question started a discussion about the recorded character audio in the game. Peters revealed that there are about 400 lines of dialogue for every player in GW2. "We've recorded over 60 feature films worth of dialog for Guild Wars 2," he added.
Two other attendees asked about the specifics of the dynamic events. From the ensuing banter, it was revealed that there are more than 1,000 of these scripted events throughout the world of Guild Wars 2, and while they are ongoing, players shouldn't see the events play out the same way every time. Grubb also mentioned that the rewards for these events are tiered based on participation and that players don't have to participate in the whole event to get a reward (but it helps).
The next person asked about how the developers were going to keep Guild Wars 2 interesting for those who complete its end-game content. Johanson jumped on this one and launched into an explanation of the five-man dungeons, each having two modes: a story mode and a repeatable mode. He also mentioned the numerous minigames available and all of the different player-versus-player options. In GW2, PVP battles will run the gamut from five-on-five skirmishes to massive world-versus-world events where three game servers are pitted against each other in one massive battle royal.
Another question shifted the discussion to how the game's AI accommodates mixed-level groups in dynamic events. The panel took this opportunity to introduce GW2's side-kicking system. If a player has a high-level character who has gone back into low-level territory, that player will be side-kicked down to the appropriate level for that content. This will allow players to adventure with those of a lower level without having to create an entirely new character. In addition, high-level characters can side-kick friends up in level so that they can adventure together in the later areas of the game.
The panel then discussed the inclusion of the jump and swim abilities, as well as possibilities opened up for designing maps. One participant asked about navigational aids for players who need more direction. Johanson responded with an explanation of GW2's scouts. These scouts will highlight areas on the map where players can go and help people, and when finished, there is typically a dynamic event nearby.
The next question was about ArenaNet's plans for future content for GW2. Price spoke up and pointed out that even though the original Guild Wars is almost six years old, the team just sent out a major content release last week. "It's inevitable that you'll see new events out there [in Guild Wars 2] over time."
The panel then talked about how the game's AI will accommodate players who enter a dynamic event and either do not participate or participate very little. In brief, it knows if a player is helping or not and will scale accordingly. Then, the question of auction houses and their inclusion in GW2 came up. Peters addressed this, saying that there will be marketplaces where players can post advertisements for items they want to sell or items they want to buy.
Quote: "The human city has a perpetual bar brawl you can jump into at any time."--Johanson on the minigames in Guild Wars 2.
Takeaway: Guild Wars 2 looks as if it's really coming into its own and drawing a hard distinction between itself and the countless other MMOGs out there. A world driven completely by dynamic quests is an ambitious goal, and it's exciting to see if ArenaNet can pull it off. The packed house brought plenty of energy to the discussion and made sure to slip in a few jabs about a certain online competitor. Guild Wars 2 still doesn't have an official release date, but the team hopes to see the title released sometime this year.
Scams range from links to fake anti-virus downloads and phony donation sites to classic online swindles that rely on greed.
"What's surprising this time is how quickly they picked up on the news," said Chet Wisniewski, a security researcher with U.K.-based Sophos. "We knew [scams] were coming, but they started appearing in record-breaking time, less than three hours after the earthquake."
Facebook has been used by cyber-crooks to collect information when users click on a link posing as CNN video footage of the tsunami that struck the eastern cost of Japan Friday, said Sophos in a blog post Sunday.
A record 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan mid-afternoon Friday, and a powerful tsunami struck its northeastern coast minutes later. The death toll may reach in the tens of thousands, according to recent reports.
Scammers are also flooding e-mail inboxes with messages asking recipients to donate money to relief efforts, said Eric Park, a Symantec researcher with the company's anti-spam team.
"This is very typical, especially with disasters, because they can ask for donations or pose as a legitimate charitable organization," said Park today.
Another Symantec researcher noted that other scams have appeared taking advantage of news of the earthquake and tsunami. "Symantec has observed a classic 419 message targeting the Japanese disaster," said researcher Samir Patil in a post to the company's security blog today. "The message is a bogus 'next of kin' story that purports to settle millions of dollars owing to an earthquake and tsunami victim."
A "419" scam is a long-used con -- named for a section in the Nigerian criminal code -- that tries to convince victims to advance funds in the hope of realizing a much larger return.
Crooks have also registered a large number of domains with URLs that may fool users into thinking that they're legitimate donation or relief sites, said Patil, a tactic that can also push those sites higher on search results.
Patil said that Symantec spotted more than 50 such domains within hours of last week's earthquake and ensuing tsunami, all with the words "Japan tsunami" or "Japan earthquake" in their URLs.
Other security companies have seen the same thing. Last Friday, for instance, Trend Micro spotted numerous parked domains -- URLs that have been registered but had zero content -- with words like "help," "earthquake," "japan," "tsunami," "relief," and "donations" included in their titles.
Monday, Trend Micro reported on one phishing site that included "japan" in its URL, saying that the site was harvesting e-mail addresses and other personal information from unsuspecting users.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) -- a joint effort by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center -- issued an alert last Friday that warned consumers to be wary of responding to donation requests following a disaster like Japan's.
Fake anti-virus vendors have also gotten in on the action, according to the SAN Institute's Internet Storm Center (ISC). Makers of the bogus security software -- often called "rogueware" to denote that the essentially worthless programs nag users with multiple pop-ups and fake alerts to pay for the software -- stay atop breaking news by automatically poisoning search engine results with links to their wares.
The ISC came up with a tally of 1.7 million poisoned pages that tout the earthquake and tsunami, a number beyond even Google's ability to rapidly delete.
Users should donate only to legitimate organizations, and only through those groups' Web sites, experts said today. The American Red Cross, for example, is taking donations on its site.
"And remember, many communities have set up their own charity programs, so if you're not sure about a solicitation, go to your local charity, like your local branch of the Red Cross," said Wisniewski.
Verizon has announced that they waiving their $35 Tablet activation fee for month to month data plans related to the
For users to receive the $35 waiver from Verizon, they must purchase a month to month data plan along with either the Motorola Xoom or Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Data plans begin at $20 a month for 1GB and go all the way up to $80 a month for 10GB. Overages per GB are $20 for the smallest plan, and $10 for every plan thereafter. So if you’re planning on going over that 1GB, get yourself at least the 3GB plan for $35 a month and save yourself $10 if you go over.
The Motorola Xoom is selling at Verizon for $599.99 with a new two-year customer agreement. It’s the first Android Tablet to run the Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) OS. Recently, we reported that Xoom users were having trouble activating their tablets in order to pay their bills online. Having to pony up $35 and not be able to do what you got to do had to have been frustrating. So getting a credit back on your bill at least says “sorry about that.” Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Tab recently enjoyed a price cut top $199. So right now is a great time to pick up an Android tablet from Verizon.
An elegant solar powered cell phone was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week naming as ‘Apollo’. It has Designed by Chinese cell phone manufacturer Umeox, this phone with a solar panel incorporated on its back side, is already being touted to be the world’s first Android-powered, mass produced, solar-powered cell phone.
The Apollo features a 3.2″ 320×480 display, 1GB of storage, a microSD card slot, FM radio, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a 3 megapixel rear camera and a 3.5mm audio jack. While the Apollo is the first solar-powered cellphone unveiled at MWC 2011.
While the Apollo is the first solar-powered cellphone unveiled at MWC 2011, there were similar phones unveiled at previous events too, which included big names like the Samsung Blue Earth.
1. Samsung Blue Earth:
This green technology imbued, flamboyant blue phone is made of recycled plastic, features a pedometer, and even an advanced software that acknowledges just how much we are contributing to Earth by using it. Integrated solar panels are embedded on the sleek back side, with full touchscreen on the front.
2. LG Pop:
The LG GD510 Pop carries an optimized feature set that allows the phone to be more compact and easy to use. The phone is equipped with a 3MP camera with auto focus and 8GB of internal memory that can store several popular audio and video file formats to keep the user entertained for a long time. In addition to a host of trendy features, the cellphone carries a large photovoltaic panel to charge the onboard battery on the move.
3. Sagem Puma Phone:
Weighing it at 115gm, the solar-powered Puma Phone features a 2.8-inch QVGA touchscreen interface and a 3.2MP camera with LED flash. The phone also doubles as a sports tool with included features like bike speedo and a run tracker, both of which use the phone’s GPS receiver, a pedometer and even a sailing compass. It also includes a music player, an FM radio and a stopwatch. The phone has 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and 2.9 Mbps HSUPA, an 880 mAh Li-Ion battery that’s good for 350 hours of standby and 5 hours of talk time and 24 hours of music playback.