Last week the first retail expansion for "The Lord of the Rings Online" titled "Mines of Moria" was released.

But hot on the heels of the "World of Warcraft" expansion "Wrath of the Lich King," would "LotRO" still be "the one game to rule them all" for its playerbase?

Right before the game's launch, I spoke with executive producer Jeffrey Steefel about competing with "WoW" and "Warhammer Online" and what Turbine's future plans are for "LotRO." Read More...

If you got a chance to run for a governmental position for your favorite video game, would you?

The players of "Eve Online" would -- and they're doing it now.

Here are a few selected candidates running for "Eve Online"'s player-only Council of Stellar Management and some information about their political platforms:

Ankhesentapemkah (pictured above): The website for the incumbent CSM secretary outlines the issues she's addressed during her first term, including setting up focus groups and in-game discussions. And she's even made a video that features pop music, a mini-cooper and a preview of her school game design project based on the game.

You can read about three more colorful candidates after the jump. Read More...

With the news today that the "World of Warcraft" expansion "Wrath of the Lich King" sold 2.8 million copies within its first 24 hours of release, we can only wonder what's next for Blizzard's flagship franchise.

At the New York City launch event last week, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime did tell me to expect another expansion in about a year, and executive VP of product development Frank Pearce gave an update on the "World of Warcraft" movie currently in development. Read More...

The first expansion for "The Lord of the Rings Online" called "Mines of Moria" is in stores today. We've got an exclusive, extended look at Redhorn Lodes, a new, hardly-seen-before area of the game. Check it out, and see if you're ready to delve into the depths of "Moria."

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You had to make some tough decision in "Mass Effect" sometimes. Should a character live or die? The choice was often left in your hands.

But even if you didn't like your first choice, you could always boot up an old save and pick a different path. That character never really had to die.

BioWare admits that's a struggle with even their own games. Because "Star Wars: The Old Republic" is a persistent online experience, they see an opportunity to solve that.

"As an attempt to appeal to a broader and broader audience, consequence has left gaming," said BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk to me after unveiling his MMO this week. "Everything is very low impact and there's no real negative result that can occur. We're going to start bringing that back but in a rational way, a way that doesn't punish the player -- but puts them on the spot."

The issue of inconsequential decision-making isn't just something limited to offline experiences, however, argued Zeschuk. Online games are guilty of it, too.

Read More...

There is much we don't know about LucasArts and BioWare's newly announced, currently PC-only MMO "Star Wars: The Old Republic."

This week's announcement didn't explain many important aspects to the game, including how combat works. It is slow? Fast? Turn-based? Action-centric?

I spent time on Tuesday with BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, who attempted to explain -- as much as he could -- what "The Old Republic"'s combat is like, using extreme points of comparison: "World of WarCraft" and "EverQuest" against "Age of Conan" and "The Force Unleashed."

Here's what Zeschuck said.

Read More...

"[After being hired] there [are] over three months after the multiple tests [you take] that you spend before you ever get to touch the game, just training to be a BioWare writer. And if you're writing a class, which is the most sort of sacred thing to be doing, you get stuff written all over your stuff constantly that says…you pitch a plot to me, and you're writing [a] Sith [quest] and I write on the board 'And then Darth Vader…helps a farmer…to save his tractor.' And then I point at it and then we mock you and then that doesn't go in our game."

-- "Star Wars: The Old Republic" lead writer Daniel Erickson on how he wants to avoid the mundane quests players normally find themselves involved in with today's MMOs; if it isn't epic or heroic, he doesn't want it.

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Just a few moments ago, LucasArts president Darrell Rodriguez confirmed their rumored collaboration with BioWare for a "Star Wars" PC MMO.

It's called "Star Wars: The Old Republic."

"There's been some rumors recently in the past few months," joked BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka. "We thought about 'Howard the Duck' MMO, but maybe that's a little too crazy, a little too far out there."

Muzyka described "The Old Republic" as a story-based MMO, and they've wanted to make a game like this for over a decade now. He describes "The Old Republic" as the fan-requested "'Knights of the Old Republic' 3, 4, 5, 6 and beyond."

The game is now playable, though we won't be playing the game at LucasArts' event today. Right now, they're focusing on tweaking gameplay at LucasArts, BioWare and Electronic Arts and said we'll be seeing more of the gameplay "soon."

The graphics look stylized. But while not realistic, they're not as extreme as say, the animated "Clone Wars" movie.

BioWare's emphasis is on story. They described story as the "fourth pillar" that has yet to be explored in online games. "The Old Republic" will tell a "powerful" story set thousands of years before the "Star Wars" movies. It's the same setting as the popular "Knights of the Old Republic" games.

But they did show a trailer to set the stage for the game. The video was completely story-centric, but gave away few details and showed no in-game footage from "The Old Republic." The emphasis of the trailer was on the fight between good vs. evil. "Who will you choose?" the teaser asked.

A rep for the game said the developers are only talking about a PC release today, declining to address whether there will be console versions.

We'll be interviewing LucasArts and BioWare today about "The Old Republic." Stay tuned for more details.

In a "State of the Game" message from EA Mythic head honcho Mark Jacobs today, the MMO developer announced two new classes for the game: the Knight of the Blazing Sun for Order and the Black Guard for Destruction.

Those additions will be arriving later this year, some time after the release of the next "World of Warcraft" expansion, which ships November 13.

When I spoke with Jacobs yesterday about the announcement, he promised a major event surrounding the introduction of the new classes, but declined to specify what the event would be or what specific attributes the new classes would have. "Almost everything we're doing with the classes involves buffing up abilities, like adding more things as opposed to taking them away," he said.

And as promised, the classes, which were cut from the game before launch due to quality issues, will be part of Patch 1.1. Jacobs told me that the patch will fix issues players have been having with the mail system and will include improvements on the chat, itemization and targeting systems as well as client performance. There will be new content as well, such as 14 new quest chains, two new Lairs and more unlockables for the Tome of Knowledge.

I also wondered if there were any major design changes when it came to Public Quests and Scenarios. Jacobs said that the development team was looking into scaling Public Quests. In other words, when players can't find enough others to do a Public Quest, he suggested that the quest might automatically adjust to the number of players available. "So if there's only five people in the area versus how it was designed for 10, then the objectives will be easier and the rewards will change," he explained. "Let's say you had to kill 20 skeletons; now you only have to kill 10." He added that the scaling of Public Quests might be added before the 1.1 patch, but he couldn't guarantee it.

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[UPDATE 12:15pm: The story has been updated with comments from EA Mythic's Mark Jacobs.] When I spoke with EA Mythic head Mark Jacobs earlier this year about developing MMORPG "Warhammer Online," it was inevitable that we talked about the competition -- namely a little game called "World of Warcraft."

"They've been paying attention, and I know they're in our beta even though they don't like to tell us they're in our beta," Jacobs said of Blizzard staffers during the game's beta period in August.

So during BlizzCon this past weekend, I confronted "World of Warcraft" game director Jeff Kaplan about this. Had Blizzard employees really tried to sneak into the beta for "Warhammer Online"? Read More...

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