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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dire News From Zafaria, Grub Guardians, and Harvest Hannah

Here it is, the next new world, Zafaria! Ever wanted to level your pets via mobile device? That's on its way, too! It's time for level 70, new pets, mounts, and rank 9 spells, and it's time to have your mind blown!

First, here's a picture from Wizard101:


Several other sites released images, too:







If you aren't drooling already, let's talk about the images - first, the thumbnail from Wizard101. They've announced the following:

  • The level cap will be raised from 60 to 70.
  • There will be new pets, mounts, enemies, and allies.
  • There will be new rank 9 spells.
  • This will be for level 60 wizards and continue the Morganthe storyline.
Here a message from Merle:

"I'll soon be calling those of you who are level 60 to come to my office in the Commons as soon as you can! We have a small crisis which I hope you can help with. It involves travel to the world of Zafaria. I was there, long ago...

..but beware, while it is a lush and vibrant land, Zafaria was once the home of Morganthe and even still her agents sow the seeds of chaos. As war threatens to sweep over the grasslands and penetrate deep into the jungles of Zafaria, Morganthe plots to recover the heart of her lost power, and fulfill the words of the prophecy."


And HERE IS A VIDEO YOU MUST SEE! If you've watched it, you'll have seen many of the new locations in Zafaria and most of the rank 9 spells. The Storm spell is Frankenstein, the Ice Spell is the Mammoth herd, the Fire Spell is the Volcano, the Death spell is not shown, the Balance Spell is Chimera, which is like Hydra, but with spiritual damage, the Life spell is a Gnome-related one, and the Myth spell is that odd Dragon.

As you can see with several other pictures, the Shadow Weavers are definitely back, as is Morganthe. My suspicion that Merle Ambrose (Merlin) and Morganthe (Morgan Le Fay) have known each other and will meet again is getting closer and closer to true.

Now here is everything you should know about the upcoming update:

From MMORPG:
In the Family MMO market Wizard 101 remains one of the top games for players. Both children and adults have logged hours into the game and it continues to deliver on prime content, great story lines and more fun for its fans. If you have not played Wizard 101 before it is worth checking out. Even hardcore MMO players will enjoy the gameplay and fun combat system. This past month we got a sneak peek at what is coming up in Wizard 101. Players will see the expansion Zarafria come to its test servers. There is also a new app minigame coming calledGrub Guardian for mobile markets that helps you level your in-game pet while away from the game. And finally, Wizard 101 has a few goodies coming for the Holiday season in December.

First off, Zafaria is on the horizons as players will begin to see signs of this new area in the next few weeks. The game takes on an African theme with Zafaria that has wizards meeting all kinds of new opponents and allies. The game’s level cap is actually being raised from 60 to 70. There will be lots of new gear and mounts to discover. Not to mention, Players will get access to some high level Rank 9 spells to boost up their magic arsenal for the new expansion.

There are also a bunch of new zones for players to explore. The Drum Jungle plays host to ancient ruins which have been overgrown by the lush rainforest. Another new area of interest isStone Town, home of the Elephant Nation. Zafaria also has its central market place in Baobabfor players. End game players will be happy to have the new zones to explore. The team has set up a lot for players to do.

Just as big as Zafaria is the new Grub Guardian minigame for mobile devices and the web browser. Players can log in and start up the tower defense style game which helps them level up their pets. Getting the mobile game to link to the players in game pets in the MMO was tricky, but Kings Isle pulled it off and players will be able to finally level up their pets outside of the game. The web browser version of the game will test in November. Launch is expected on the browser first with the iOS and Android markets quickly to follow.

This Holiday Season Wizard 101 has two new bundle game cards for players to check out. The Hawkrider Bundle is coming to Wal-Mart and offers the players gear, items, and the Flying Hawk mount. The Super Bundle will be at Gamestop and is a little more expensive but comes with a house and “Great Hornocerous” mount.

People may not realize but Wizard 101 has more than 20 million-plus registered players on US servers. The game continues to grow among both young and old fans. Wizard 101 is expanding into Europe launching with Gameforge and also into China with TaoMae in 2012.

If you have not tried Wizard 101 go to the web site and start it up. The game may look like it is designed for kids, but never forget it is the hardcore team from Shadowbane that put this together. There are some great gameplay features and the card collecting elements of spells adds even more depth to the journey. When a game continues to expand with new zones and more levels you know the formula works for the community. KingsIsle does an amazing job in listening to their player-base and building the game for the whole family. This year at GDC Online Wizard 101 won the Audience Award. The fact that it resonates with developers and fans alike proves how much fun Wizard 101 continues to be. Hope to see you in Zafaria soon.

From Beckett Massive Online Gamer:
Hold on to your pointy wizard hats, boys and girls -- KingsIsle is back with a new zone for Wizard101 that marks the game's biggest content push since last year's Celestia. Zafiria is the name of the place, and the African-themed world brings with it a ton of new lands to explore, enemies to battle, friends to make, and spells to learn.

Zafiria is a continuation of the Celestia plotline, a lush savannah/jungle world where players will re-encounter the Umbra Queen Morganthe -- but they'll also have a new arsenal of spells and abilities to deal with her evil machinations. The level cap is being raised from 60 to 70, and new Rank 9 spells will be made available to combat the dangers of this lush, shadowy world. Wizards will have access to new gear, pets, and appropriately themed mounts while exploring the many destinations of Zafiria, including:

-Baobab, the market Hub of Zafaria.
-The Savannah, with its open grasslands and hidden dens.
-Zamuda, the great wooden city of the Zebra Empire
-Stone Town, capital of the Elephant Nation
-Drum Jungle, where twisted ruins hide beneath the lush canopy.
 
Zafiria will go live on the public test server shortly, and the expansion is expected to go live before the end of the year. Our only question is: Do they make pith wizard hats?

From Gamasutra:
As kid-friendly MMO Wizard101 enters its third year, developer KingsIsle Entertainment says that it has looked toward Zynga for inspiration on how to evolve the client-based online game since its launch.

Later this month, KingsIsle will debut Grub Guardians, a new tower defense game -- and companion app to Wizard101 -- that the company says mixes elements from social games and even mobile titles.

"We're taking a trick from the Zynga playbook," Wizard101 creative director Todd Coleman told Gamasutra in a recent interview. "The trick is that players like to connect to a game's advancement curve, they like to make forward progress from whatever device they have handy."

"Sometimes players take 15 minutes, sometimes two hours, sometimes just 30 seconds to playWizard. We thought it would be interesting to expose smaller, more digestible entry points to make advancements in the game," he continued.

This new browser game, which will later launch on iOS and Android, ties in directly with Wizard101, and awards players with items and experience that benefit their pets in the main MMO.

"The idea we had was, 'What if I don't have the time or the device handy to get into the MMO?' I might be sitting in the dentist office, and I have three minutes until I get called, and we want people to connect in with any device they have."

"It's a pretty simple concept really, but nobody's really pushed very far in that regard," Coleman said, noting other similar apps (like KingsIsle's ownWizardblox) rely on redeemable coupon codes, while Grub Guardians takes care of everything without codes or any sort of user input.

Balancing Social With Traditional

While KingsIsle explicitly pointed to Zynga as a reference for its mobile game, the company as a whole is also angling toward the social space. Coleman was quick to point out that KingsIsle seesWizard101 as a middle ground between a traditional MMO and a modern social game.

"We're in an interesting position, because we're a little bit of a hybrid between what you're seeing now, which are these more casual mass-market appeal games, and the traditional MMO, World of Warcraft type of games."

"From a target audience standpoint, we look more like a Zynga-style game; we have massive numbers of people who come and try the game and we use that freemium model, but in terms of immersion, and the number of hours played by our players, we look a lot like an MMO," he said.

The real trick, Coleman said, is: "How do you tie the two styles together?"

KingsIsle's approach to the problem has been to new build newer, more social systems around the game's core MMO base, all of which feed into each other to create a cohesive game.

"I like to look at Wizard like an amusement park," Coleman explained. "At first, we just had our big roller-coaster, which was our leveling and our questing, and then we added crafting, and gardening, and pets, and all of them are secondary systems."

"Our goal with those new systems was to address players who weren't interested in the adventuring… We started with the assumption that each system would be a self-contained unit with its own gameplay experience, and then we baked ties in, so one game is affecting the next, is feeding the next, and so on, so we're dragging you as a player through enticement."

Despite his comparisons to Zynga and other data-driven social developers, Coleman pointed out that KingsIsle differs from these companies is some significant ways. For instance, unlike Zynga, KingsIsle uses metrics sparingly to inform game design.

"We still look at metrics and make changes, but I think with the complexity of a game like this, the data is an influence, but at the end of the day, you need the game design team to figure out what the right answer is," he said.

"For us, it's more like we look at the tea leaves, make our divination, and based on our gut, we decide what the right answer is, and that's what we do. Sometimes the answer in our gut is not what the data tells us, and we're okay with that. Our gut got us where we are, and we're going to keep going in that direction."

Judging by Wizard101's player base, that philosophy has paid off. The game currently has more than 20 million registered users, and Coleman said it saw 13 million unique visitors this September, which is traditionally a slow month for the company.

Growing Wizard, Going Global

In the coming months, KingsIsle has plans for a number of projects aimed at expanding and growing Wizard101 itself. Later this November, the studio will debut a new high-level content expansion dubbed 'Zafaria,' which offers new areas, spells, and more. Coleman says this type of new content helps further engage the game's existing users, and will expand on the game's existing feature set.

When it comes to bringing the game to new players, however, Coleman said he is most excited about bringing Wizard101 overseas and into the Chinese market.

This is the first time the studio has dabbled with releasing games in China, and Coleman noted he is looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

"There aren't any other offerings in China like Wizard101, so we really have no idea how well it's going to do. Obviously we have high hopes, but really, who's to say?" said Coleman.

The real challenge to succeeding in China, Coleman believes, will be finding a balance between monetizing for a Chinese audience and maintaining Wizard101's core design.

"The thing is, our game is very linear, and it literally leads you from one zone to the next. In the U.S., we have two styles of payment, we have subscribers, who can go anywhere they want, and the other option lets players just buy a zone as they hit it. That model has been very successful here, but that model doesn't exactly map in China," Coleman explained.

"The expectation is that players will be able to play through that linear narrative content without having to pay for it. The challenge for us is that for non-members, paying for zones was a major driver to become members, and it added a lot of lifetime value for subscribers."

"Attracting players is not a problem, but how do we make sure they pay for the game?" Coleman asked, pondering the challenges ahead for him and his team.

Reflecting on both Grub Guardians and Wizard101's push into China, Coleman admitted, "This is all a bit of experimentation for us," but also noted that he's excited to see how it all plays out.

From Massively:
KingsIsle Entertainment has announced the latest content update coming to its popular MMO title, Wizard101. The new patch, which is coming later this month, introduces the African-themed world of Zafaria, which features many major themes related to the return of the Umbra Queen, Morganthe. The update will increase the level cap from 60 to 70 and will introduce new gear, pets, mounts, and spells. In addition, players will have new areas to explore, such as the open grasslands of the Savannah and the ruins of the Drum Jungle.

A new minigame feature known as Grub Guardian will be launching in tandem with the new update. Grub Guardian is a tower-defense-style game which, will be available for web browsers and eventually, Android and iOS mobile devices. The game will allow players to link to their Wizard101 accounts, which will enable them to play the game using their in-game pets. As players progress in Grub Guardian, their pets will reap rewards of experience and increased attributes. KingsIsle hopes this will allow players to make progress within the game even if they are away from their computers or simply short on time. For more information about the coming updates, and to join the fun for yourself, head on over to Wizard101's official site.

[Source: KingsIsle Entertainment press release]

End of articles.

Training our pets from our mobile phone?!?! New worlds and spells?!?! All sorts of new things that are making Swordroll use crazy punctuation?!?!

In other news, Harvest Hannah is on her way to the Spiral - look for her in the Shopping District.

Prepare yourselves... the Horn will call.


3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting the info so quickly, i appreciate it. I like to stay up to date with Wizard101 even though i don't play it much but now that all the new stuff is coming I'm definitely gonna go get a membership :P thanks again

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  2. I honestly thought Frakenstein was the death spell, but I think the storm spell IS shown but for only 5 seconds.

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  3. New and Exciting characters, Fingers crossed to have my hands on it.

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