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Electronic Arts is dropping out of the Online Pass racket, and several of its properties already reflect the decision. Games like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Dragon Age II, and Mass Effect 2 have had their pass-gated components priced down to free on Xbox Live (via NeoGAF), and EA says more are to come.
“As we discontinue Online Pass for our new EA titles, we are also in the process of eliminating it from all our existing EA titles as well,” an EA representative told our sister site CVG.
“Players will see it first with some EA Sports titles, where a prompt to enter an Online Pass code will no longer appear in-game; with other titles we are simply making Online Passes available free of charge online.”
The rolling updates will take effect over the next several weeks, until the used-game monetizing initiative is no more. At least, no more from EA–how Microsoft and Sony plan to deal with used games on their respective next-gen consoles remains hazy.
EA has been a trendsetter in the realm of post-release, digital content, but it’s now backing off one of its most prominent tools. At an event in LA today, EA senior VP of corporate communications Jeff Brown confirmed for GamesRadar that the company would be backing away from its Online Pass scheme, due in large part to fan dissatisfaction.
“We thought it was a cool way to package up online services and content,” Brown said. “It never got off the ground. Consumers didn’t like it. We listened to what they were saying and decided it wasn’t worth doing it again…Consumers just didn’t like it.”
Brown went on to note that gamers should not expect Online Pass to return any time soon. “There’s a lot of plans to keep building in new content and services,” he said. “But no, there’s no plan to package this stuff up. And frankly that was a secondary concern. And no, I’m not aware of any project that does that.”
Introduced with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 in June 2010, the Online Pass program generally involved sequestering away online functionality behind a one-time use code. These codes came packed-in with new copies of games. However, those who picked up the game second-hand, be it through as a used game, rental, or otherwise, were required to pay $ 10 to buy their own, individual code.
The Online Pass scheme quickly caught with other publishers, including Activision, Ubisoft, Sony, and WB Interactive.
Developer Gamepot’s latest online venture doesn’t sport the refinement of World of Warcraft, the large community of Guild Wars, or the political intrigue of EVE Online. In fact, to look at Wizardry Online, you may be fooled into thinking you’ve somehow tumbled backward in time to the late ’90s, where the low-quality artwork and textures might have been more appropriate. The game has no trouble rehashing tired tropes for its own gain. But for all that it does wrong, it boasts a particular brand of scrappiness that keeps you plugging away, even when the danger of permadeath looms large.
Wizardry Online is an austere fairy tale that falls somewhere between the healthy rigors of Final Fantasy XI and the masochism of Dark Souls. This dark fantasy doesn’t stray far from the trappings associated with standard MMO design, but some interesting decisions keep it afloat, and there’s no admission price to hinder you from fulfilling your curiosity. Unfortunately, none of this is evident in the initial hours. Perhaps that’s why it seems that the aim of Wizardry Online, in keeping with the dungeon-crawling lore of the original Wizardry series, is to give you as challenging an experience as possible while still baiting you to continue.
After installation and several updates, the client greets you with some cinematic, Final Fantasy-esque fanfare. You’re deposited into a seemingly never-ending online abyss after clicking “start.” Once an arbitrary amount of time has passed, sometimes up to 15 minutes or more, you may be allowed onto the server. Using Alt + Tab to multitask while waiting to join a server isn’t an option; you simply wait for the privilege of connecting. It’s a rotten setup, especially when trying to join during what you would assume are the peak hours for play. It’s also extremely frustrating to weather unpredictable wait times only to be booted from the server multiple times in one session, or to endure its lengthy load times, which Wizardry Online struggles with far too often.
A series of shoddy menus and options are waiting once you’ve made it server-side, and they’re riddled with uninteresting color palettes and character models that do little to entice you. In fact, the game as a whole is devoid of any appealing graphics. After you’re subjected to meandering lore and walls of text, it’s time to assign a class. You choose from five different races: humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and the Tarutaru-like Porkul. The character creation screen shows off unusual character designs, such as the most feminine gnomes you’ll ever see in your life and strangely unappealing elves; it’s almost as if these races’ established qualities swapped places.
After choosing an avatar and settling on a race, you need to select a class and alignment, although there isn’t much choice to be had here. Alignments are nothing more than one additional stat to track and mean little in the grand scheme of things, so your class ultimately decides your fate. Gnomes fit the priest role, dwarves lead the charge as warriors, elves are powerful mages, and the Porkul are sneaky pickpockets. Humans are as vanilla as can be. A roll of the dice completes the package for your character’s stats and can grant bonuses to races that happen to be awful at adapting to particular classes–say, a Porkul as a warrior. If you’re just starting out, you can take chances when it comes to rerolling new characters, but seasoned veterans will want to carefully pick and choose, picking the best class for the race suited for the job. Still, it’s unfortunate that races represent little more than aesthetic value; each character looks and plays practically the same.
Once you’re free to roam the world, you will want to find companions: this is a game you don’t flourish in when flying solo. The in-game group finder goes a long way to ensure that you can always find a few fellow adventurers to complete the traditional tank-DPS-healer trifecta, which becomes invaluable when scouring the various dungeons. Quests and other tasks are assigned via hub worlds, and most of the action takes place deep in the heart of sewers and labyrinthine tunnels rife with puzzles. Considering you’re spending time within smaller cramped spaces populated with high-level players, you’re going to want someone watching your back at all times, and traveling alone is a great way to meet your permanent end much faster.
Combat is where you end up ferreting out the fun, which is often overshadowed by the messy UI and more brown graphics than a desert-themed first-person shooter. Active attack and defense moves are natural and much more kinetic than those of traditional MMO hotkey combat. Though each character class feels the same whether you’re using magic or brute strength to conquer your enemies, having to exercise a bit of skill to land a hit on a rare enemy provides an extra level of immersion. You feel as though you have control to exert over this persistent world, and that’s what ends up elevating this oft-confusing endeavor to a status beyond meager. As long as you can successfully sustain your health and mana (which do not regenerate), you’re on your way to looting other players’ corpses instead of littering each pathway with your hours of earned items and gold.
Valencia, Calif,-based California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has partnered with online course platform Coursera to offer a variety of free massive open online courses (MOOC) to students all over the world. Three CalArts’ classes will launch in Fall 2013: Introduction to Programming for Digital Artists, taught by Ajay Kapur, Ph.D, Director: Music Technology: Interaction, Intelligence and Design (MTIID) at CalArts; Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works, led by Dean of CalArts Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance Stephan Koplowitz; and Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers, with CalArts’ Provost and Faculty in the School of Art Jeannene Przyblyski, Ph.D.
“It is our goal at Coursera to offer our students a rich variety of academic opportunities,” said Coursera co-founder, Andrew Ng. “As an institution focused solely on the arts, CalArts provides a unique roster of rigorous arts-based courses that are now accessible to students globally.”
“We are deeply gratified to be the first arts institution included in Coursera’s selection of top universities,” said CalArts president Steven Lavine. “As an internationally renowned school of the visual and performing arts, developing the creativity of individual students is a key to the CalArts education—and Coursera, the premiere innovator in its field, is the ideal partner for extending our reach to students around the globe. Creativity is a key to success in today’s world and we can now offer students far beyond our campus the ability to hone and develop their own creative problem-framing and problem-solving skills.”
Those who successfully complete CalArts’ Coursera offerings will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor. Coursera classes are open to all students and free of charge. Students can now register for classes at www.coursera.org.
LONDON (Reuters) – The original Mrs Robinson’s diary and scandalous suggestions about a former heir to the British throne are all part of the latest ancestral revelations to go online.
British genealogical website Ancestry.co.uk said on Tuesday it has put the transcripts of thousands of Victorian divorce proceedings online, which reveal the racy details of an era that most modern Britons consider to have been dominated by imperial duty, a stiff upper lip and formal familial relations.
The UK Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1911 date from the year when the Matrimonial Causes Act removed the jurisdiction of divorce from the church and made it a civil matter.
Before this, a full divorce required intervention by Parliament, which had only granted around 300 since 1668. The records also include civil court records on separation, custody battles, legitimacy claims and nullification of marriages, according to the website.
Primarily due to their high cost, divorces were relatively rare in the 19th century, with around 1,200 applications made a year, compared to approximately 120,000 each year today, and not all requests were successful due to the strength of evidence required.
The rarity of such cases, combined with the fact that it was wealthy, often well-known nobility involved, made the divorce proceedings huge public scandals, played out in the press as real life soap operas.
Famously high-profile divorces included that of Henry and Isabella Robinson, the inspiration for the novel “Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace”, by Kate Summerscale.
Henry Robinson sued for divorce after reading his wife Isabella’s diary, which included in-depth details of her affair with a younger married man.
The diary was used as court evidence and when reported by the media became a huge scandal, partly because of the language used within the journal. Isabella, however, claimed the diary was a work of fiction, which led to her victory in court.
Conservative MP and baronet, Charles Mordaunt, filed for divorce in 1869 from his wife Harriet who stood accused of adultery with multiple men.
The case became national news when the Prince of Wales was rumored to be among the men who had had an affair with her. This rumor was never proven and Lady Mordaunt was eventually declared mad and spent the rest of her life in an asylum.
“At the time, such tales often developed into national news stories, but now they’re more likely to tell us something about the double standards of the Victorian divorce system or help us learn more about the lives of our sometimes naughty ancestors,” Ancestry.co.uk UK Content Manager Miriam Silverman said in a statement on Tuesday.
When the divorce laws first came into effect, men could divorce for adultery alone, while women had to supplement evidence of cheating with solid proof of mistreatment, such as battery or desertion.
Despite this double standard, roughly half of the records are accounts of proceedings initiated by the wife. Many of the nullifications of marriages fall into this category, with failure to consummate the nuptials a common reason.
One such example in the records shows a Frances Smith filing for divorce in 1893 under such grounds.
In the court ledgers it is noted that the marriage was never consummated, with the husband incapable “by reason of the frigidity and impotency or other defect of the parts of generation” and “such incapacity is incurable by art or skill” following inspection.
(Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Patricia Reaney)
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