Brain Clutter

August 9, 2007

Duels.com – A social networking MMORPG

Filed under: gaming, MMORPG, social networking, World of Warcraft — brainclutter @ 11:50 am

Duels.com logoDuels.com is a free, fun, web-based MMORPG with elements of social networking; think World of Warcraft mixed with Web 2.0.

I don’t know whether to call it a game or a social network because elements of both worlds are seamlessly integrated in this addicting new service. Your goal is to raise up a new character (avatar) from level 1 throughout the ranks by challenging other players and in-game monsters, while completing various quests from your taskmaster. In a sense it’s your traditional RPG but presented on the web through an engaging user interface and there are many ways to network with friends and declare war on enemies. Combat is determined by mathematics, based on your current weapon(s), armour, scrolls, skills, stats, abilities, etc. The ultimate goal similar to all MMORPGs: get to the highest level with the best equipment.

The game is very addictive if you’re a fan of RPGs, which might be a problem because they’re currently having server issues and intermittent downtimes. If you’re like me, you’ll be itching to log in and check on your duel status!

The game is very friendly to the casual player, reminiscent of the old play-by-email games like X-Com or Risk. You can log in, check your current status, spend any gained points, upgrade your equipment, challenge a bunch of people, start a quest, and logout again in mere minutes. Then you check back every hour or so to see how you’re doing. For the twitchy gamer, you might find the pace a bit slow because your progress is dictated by your duels and it may take some time for people to accept your challenges. If no-one is fighting you, there’s not much your character can do but sit there and wait.

This is an excellent time to read the user guide or contribute on the forums!

I do wonder how they plan to monetize their service [UPDATE below]. After only two days and a couple server upgrades/additions, they’re still experiencing game lag. They have nearly 50,000 people signed up right now with no signs of slowing down. I can imagine this will be pretty costly to keep going if they expand at their current rate…

Anyway, I only have couple hours experience on Duels and I’ve definitely made a few mistakes here and there, but I’ll rate this game a 4/5 for the fun factor and casual friendliness!

My only suggestions would be to redesign the user interface to not be so graphically intensive, as that is most definitely contributing to the server issues. Also, the Battle list showing all available opponents within your level range could use a bit of a redesign to allow for advanced searching and sorting (ie. show only monsters, show only level X opponents, show only path of the Y opponents, etc.). Finally, I wish it would save certain preferences with cookies or within your profile (e.g. always hide offline members when in the Battle screen, always default to text combat summaries rather than animated combat, etc.).

Animated battle screen!

UPDATE: Duels.com has three account types. The first is free, and the other two are noble ($9.95 monthly) and patron ($25.00 annually) memberships. The free account gives you the very basics, which signing up for one of the other two accounts grants you additional inventory space, stipend gold per month, free backpacks, special badges/markers for your character, etc. They also sell Noblestones for real life cash, which can be used as in game currency to buy things like gold, extra backpacks, scrolls, character respecs, etc.

January 19, 2007

iJigg – Get jiggy with it! (ok, that was lame)

Filed under: ijigg digg, in_formation, music, social networking — brainclutter @ 9:40 am

iJigg logo

A new way for bands to share their tunes was released yesterday in the form of iJigg. The way it works? Think Digg… for music! Bands can create a profile, upload mp3s, and a community made up mostly of other bands can “Jigg” your songs. The more Jiggs you get, the higher you rank and the higher you rank may earn you a spot on their home page. Landing your song on the homepage is definitely a desirable outcome because it will be visible to many more people than a song buried 10-pages back.

iJigg screenshot from TechCrunch For this reason, the site will likely be targeted by exploiters, similar to Digg. All you need is about 50 or so friends “Jigg” your song, which will put it on the home page. Is this even an issue though? Shouldn’t bands be able to count on their friends to spread the word about their music? Logic states that if the song is garbage, no amount of exploiting will keep it on the main page for long. And if the song is awesome? Exposure deserved, imo.

One feature from Digg I noticed was missing is the ability to “unJigg” a song, similar to “burying.” I think it’s a good idea to leave this feature out because their current model should balance things out fairly, without having to deal with exploiters unJigging their competition. Other notable features include tagging, categorizing by album, adding song descriptions, trackbacks, internal messaging, emailing tracks to friends, and creating a favorite’s list.

Another neat feature is the ability to embed any iJigg track into your blog, website, forum, or facebook account. I’m going to try embedding three of our tracks into this blog entry, but I’m going to hypothesize that WordPress (free version) won’t allow me to do that.

Anyway, I really recommend trying this service out. The compression quality doesn’t seem to molest your uploads the same way MySpace Music does, and there also doesn’t seem to be an upload limit. The model is working very well for Digg and I predict big things for iJigg too!

http://www.ijigg.com/songs/A0404P0

http://www.ijigg.com/songs/A0DBEPAG

http://www.ijigg.com/songs/A0E0GP0

January 5, 2007

TechCrunch has cash to spare — introduces forums

Filed under: business, crunchgear, forum, jive, social networking, tech, techcrunch, web — brainclutter @ 10:55 am

TechCrunch logo

Things must be going pretty well over at TechCrunch for them to be able to afford a Jive forum worth thousands of dollars!

The new TechCrunch forum is a place for users to continue discussing hot articles that have dropped off the front page. It’s also a place where entreperneurs can plug their new start-up if they haven’t been lucky or newsworthy enough to warrant a spotlight article by Arrington or his staff. The idea itself is fantastic and solves the major catch-22 of popular, fast-paced blogs — They want discussion but when they post 12 articles per day and only display 5-10 on the home page, stories can quickly become “old news” and it’s less convenient for users to participate in active debate/speculation/whatever.

I don’t question the need for a forum — the need is obvious. What deserves speculation is their choice of software.

Firstly, take a look at Jive’s forum pricing chart:

Jive's pricing chart

Yowza… I’m unsure which version TC is using, but I’m guessing “Gold” because of their customized theme, a feature only available with the Gold package. Also, I’m not sure if they worked out an advertising deal with Jive but these prices are a bit steep when compared with open-source forum software or even a custom-built forum app. I live up in Canada (northwestern Ontario), where you could pay someone to build you a custom forum that would be just as feature-rich for a fraction of that price. Maybe “Valley” programmers/designers are in much higher demand and would therefore charge much more… I don’t know.

Next, look at the features of the Jive forum software. You can’t argue that Jive provides an amazingly rich feature set, but does TC require every single bit of functionality they provide? Multi-language support? Reporting? Workflow efficiency? These features are pretty darn cool, sure, but TC’s background is in BLOGGING. Comparing the feature set TC is used to with blogging to the micro-management tools available with their new forums is like comparing Meebo to Bebo… they just aren’t the same. Then again, perhaps TC has been frustrated with the lack of administrative options with their WordPress blog framework and welcomes all the itty-bitty details of the Jive forums.

Finally, let’s look at the decision to pay lucrative fees for a forum from a business perspective (if they did indeed have to pay). TC supposedly earns $10,000.00 per sponsored ad per month on their home page — $60,000.00 total per month (TechCrunch ad policy). With that kind of income, you probably need to write off as many business expenses as you can to reduce income, come tax-time (and hey, that time is just around the corner). Also, one of the big features of a Jive forum is the customer support they provide. When the solution to a problem is just a phone call/email away, it makes administration that much easier. Also, let’s face it — TechCrunch is in the business of reporting web/tech news; not building forums. While they could probably build their own forum without too much hassle in RoR/PhP, it would take time away from their primary focus of reporting cutting-edge news.

Also, let’s not forget the “bragging rights” a Jive forums enables your business. TC is now in a league with Apple and Sun in terms of their forum software… Can I get a Borat, “Wuw wuw wuw!?”

TC forums

One last thing I’d like to mention is that their forum article states that they “quietly launched a new area of the site.” Why would they “queitly” launch the forum and then post a front page article about it? Seems contradictory, no? Especially when you consider that their forum is in pretty rough shape right now — it lacks organization, proper theming, and users are reporting that their confirmation emails aren’t arriving in a timely manner. Maybe they wanted to generate buzz or maybe they wanted to conduct a “live beta.” If so, can I get another Borat, “Great success!?”

My suggestions for improvement:

  1. Create subcategories in the main forum (published articles, new startups, general discussion, etc.)
  2. Bring the theme more in-line with their visual identity (maybe it’s the designer in me talking, but the green in the header does not match the green they use over at TC).
  3. Use the “Reward System” to boost user participation… Come on… CrunchGear gives away lots of goodies! 😀

Bravo, TechCrunch for enabling yourself with a discussion solution for your extremely popular blog and generating a little controvery along the way… intended or not, it’s a great strategy. 😉

~Cheers

January 4, 2007

MMO Guildsites // 3 Awesome Updates

Hola, you might have read my earlier review of the new MMORPG guild website hosting service, MMO Guildsites here: https://brainclutter.wordpress.com/2006/12/21/hosting-an-mmorpg-guild-website/.

Well, in the past few weeks they’ve made 3 awesome updates that just amped-up the service:

  1. Community page added (http://mmoguildsites.com/blog/show/17)
  2. Image upload policy change (http://mmoguildsites.com/blog/show/15)
  3. Google AdSense side-block (http://mmoguildsites.com/blog/show/16)

Firstly, the new Community page, is an excellent social, value-added element to their main website.  This is the page you go to if you want to see what guilds are currently signed up with MMO Guildsites.  It only displays “paid” accounts — trial sites are still hidden.  You can sort guilds by name, date created, and game (WoW, EQ, etc.).  You can also search by keyword.  As an extra feature, you can also click the “members” tab and it will list the profiles of all “players” from all guilds.  You can sort members by name and date added as well as search by keyword.

Community page screenshot

At the time of review, MMO Guildsites had 26 guilds and 644 members.

Secondly, they’ve updated their image policy.  The original policy only allowed users to upload a certain number of megabytes per month per payment plan (Standard – 100MB, Pro – 250MB, Premier – 500MB).  Their new policy elimintates the monthly cap and introduces a TOTAL cap for your guild site:

  • Standard – 1000MB (1GB)
  • Pro – 2000MB (2GB)
  • Premium – 5000MB (5GB)

These new caps should be more than sufficient for guilds of any size.  For instance, you can upload a total of ~10,000 x 100KB images in the Standard plan.  To augment this new image/gallery policy, they’ve also added a new sideblock feature that will display a random image from your guild’s gallery every 10 seconds (think: Ajax slideshow).

Image gallery sideblock

 A sideblock is a drag/drop feature you can place into your guild’s website to display information to site visitors.

Finally, they also added a Google AdSense sideblock feature as a direct result of a user feature-request.  The coolest part about this?  All revenue from the sideblock will go directly to the guild!  The settings allow users to enter their personal AdSense information and all income generated from usage skips MMO Guildsites and goes directly into the user’s pockets.  The site management makes it clear that guild members not be encouraged to click their own links because Google keeps a keen eye out for improper use of AdSense and will promptly ban exploiters.

Google AdSense sideblock

Depending on the amount of traffic your guild page sees, this sideblock could potentially supplement the monthly fee of hosting your site with MMO Guildsites – but don’t cheat… you’ll get caught!

What feature would I like to see next?  A Google Map API that displays all guild members as points on a world map.  It’s a bit fluffy, but I think it would add another “social” element to their site.

Oh, and again, if you want to read my original review of their site, click HERE!

Cheers.

December 21, 2006

Hosting an MMORPG guild website

MMO Guildsites banner

I HAVE AN UPDATED REVIEW OF 3 NEW FEATURES HERE! Please note that there has been a policy change for their billing system, which I cover in my newest review.

This is not a paid advertisement – it’s a “friend”ly promotion! 😉

A couple good friends of mine from 8tasp.com finally put together their first major website — a service aimed to help host your MMORPG guild website. If you’re not interested in reading my review and would rather dive in to see for yourself, feel free to create a FREE trial or take their mini-tour.

On with the show…

As stated above, MMOGuildsites.com is a very easy way to build a website for your guild. You could compare it to Guildportal.com in theory except that the former is taking a fresh, Web 2.0 approach to the idea, while the latter is still stuck in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Guildportal; I think they’ve helped tens of thousands of people make a home for their guild on the web but to be honest their technology is limited and their style is dated. You want to attract guild members right?! At their cores, both services share the same vision — Easy guild management and communication — except MMOGuildsites does it with style.

Features

I’ll highlight some key features of MMOGuildsites in this review but you can view the entire list here.

  • Admin Panel (You get to sit in the big chair) – A very intuitive, simple, Ajax-enabled admin panel gives you full control of your guild’s website. You can create and assign ranks (linked to permission if you desire), modify your site’s layout (2-column, 3-column, fixed or liquid, etc.) with drag-and-drop functionality, maintain your billing options, and much more.
  • Theming (Pick up that paint brush and create… or trace) – So, you’ve got a great vision for how you want your site to look but you don’t know how to code HTML or CSS. No problem! They’ve built a fantastic visual themeing tool that makes customizing the look and feel of your site a breeze. Think: “paint by numbers.” You can save themes privately or publicly. To view a list of community-submitted themes, click here. Here’s one I created by using Wikipedia.com as an inspiration: Guild Wiki. If you just can’t find inspiration from within, you can actually take one of the public themes and modify it to suit your needs (kind of like tracing)!
  • Components (drag ’em and drop ’em) – Here’s a quick list of just SOME of the components you can drop into your guild’s website through the admin panel: Shout Box (real-time chat between all logged-in members), Forums (customize your own subforums for guild discussion), Guild Applications (potentials can apply for membership directly from your guild page — great for recruiting purposes), Events Calendar (plan raids, guild meetings, or simply let people know about upcoming birthdays), Image Galleries (guild members can upload images into their own personal gallery), and a DKP System (custom-made DKP system for raiding guilds – links with Allakhazam‘s item database).

Payment Options

MMOGuildsites has 4 subscriptions:

  1. FREE 7-day trial (a great way to “try before you buy”)
  2. $8.99/month (gallery upload of 100MB/month)
  3. $12.99/month (gallery upload of 200MB/month)
  4. $16.99/month (gallery upload of 500MB/month)

Aside from the upload limits, all plans are able to use the same set of components and features and when you actually think about it, the rates are pretty reasonable. Hosting a personal site with a commercial web host/server will cost you around $10.00/month alone and you’ll still need to do all the coding and database administration. Also, MMOGuildsites uses PayPal as their payment method. What’s stopping you from having each member of your guild deposit $1.00/month by PayPal to help offset the cost of site maintenance? Additionally, you could rotate who pays for the site on a monthly basis to keep things “fair.”

Conclusion

MMOGuildsites is a tool that will help you manage your guild and enhance communication between members. While the service is extremely new (launched in early December) there are already a number of guilds using it (Enmity, Avalorien, and Mayhem just to name a few). The service is targeted at guilds from any MMORPG (Everquest, World of Warcraft, Dark Age of Camelot, Guild Wars, etc.) and new features are being added all the time to compliment individual games. It puts web design into the hands of the non-programmers — though programmers will enjoy having powerful tools at their fingertips without actually having to lift a finger to “code” them.

But hey, don’t take my word for it; create a free trial and experience it for yourself.

Naked orcs unite!

Digg!

December 19, 2006

Parked Domains – me hates ’em!

Filed under: business, life, personal, social networking, web — brainclutter @ 10:09 am

Argh, nothing is more frustrating for a legitimate web developer than searching for domains to register and finding that every single one of your “totally unique and awesome brand ideas” is taken… by a domain parker! I realize people want to make a quick buck by doing absolutely nothing – it’s the western dream – but it’s just so lame for anyone who actually has a good idea based around a particular domain name. I actually spend a good chunk of time on GoDaddy.com checking to see if my ideas are already taken, which of course they usually are.

This has lead to much domain diversity and creativity – I’ll admit – but it’s just weird to see names like del.icio.us, bebo, and orkut. These domains have absolutely nothing to do with the content on their site, and while they are very trendy and “web 2.0,” I don’t really think they’re intuitive for the user.  I guess this is the Ikea strategy of giving your products/services catchy but random and nonsensical names. There’s even a rumour floating around that Nintendo bought Wii.com from some random parker for between $200,000.00 to $600,000.00?

Maybe I’m wrong in thinking a domain/brand name is actually that important.  You can’t argue with the success of the above-metioned companies and it would appear their brand isn’t having a negative impact on their success. Maybe I should take a page from their book and come up with a catchy name for myself…

Hmmm… a social recipe site named ButterClutter… a dating service called JaneOnTheBrainFuzzopi, the coolest new travel planning site.

Feel free to steal any of those and don’t forget to park ’em!

December 18, 2006

Humble Voice – what MySpace Music should be!

Filed under: in_formation, music, social networking, web — brainclutter @ 11:24 am

Humble Voice logo

http://www.humblevoice.com/tom – says it all:

If I could do it all over again… it would be just like this!
Great job guys.
http://www.myspace.com

Please don’t try to chat with me… I will decline it

It would “appear” that Tom Anderson of MySpace fame is a fan of the Humble Voice service!

And so am I! Our band recently created a profile there because it’s just so darn purdy and functional (bare-bones right now but once complete, I’ll write an update)! You can read a wonderful review of Humble Voice right here [link to Mashable.com].

UPDATE: Upon further use, I still like the site, but I wish they’d get rid of the hideous banner ad that runs along the header of every page.  Taaaaaaaaaacky!  Especially when they’ve obviously put a lot of effort into the overall design of their site.

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