Next Island News


News and updates from virtual world Recent posts include Killer Monkeys On The Loose! and Sacred Death Tikis.

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Island Girl


One of the sweetest parts of our Entropia virtual world story is the new healer NPC on Next Island, ‘Island Girl’ Tina Leiu. Jon ”Neverdie’ Jacobs, our developer, added an avatar representing his late fiancee, Tina Leiu.

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Social Game Smackdown


I see so much potential in social Facebook games, that I’m frustrated when actual gameplay falls short. (Translation: Why isn’t the real world as awesome as my imagination?)

I’ve written before about the anonymous, automatic nature of virtual free gifting, but virtual trading doesn’t have to be so thoughtlessly spammish. What if we traded finite resources instead of blasting our social networks with free virtual goods? In MyTribe, that would be seeds, recipes and crafted items, as well as swapping salvage with friends to complete collections.

To see the appeal of trading for virtual items, just look at any MMO’s auction house, shopping in Big Fish-style casual games, and I even remember trading with NPCs at certain stops on the green-and-black Oregon Trail.  Instead of offering open borders (Don’t do it. Montezuma’s a jerk.) or weapon enchantment, a casual game tradescreen would offer players the chance to trade for new seeds or give surplus stock to new players. With so many possibilities for trading in Facebook games, it seems like a waste to be stuck on socially spamming free gifts.

Via Simpson's Paradox » Social Game Smackdown

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EverQuest®’s Landmark Seventeenth Expansion, EverQuest House of Thule announced


The unparalleled seventeenth addition to Sony Online Entertainment LLC’s epic adventure EverQuest® House of Thule™ is on its way. Now in its unprecedented twelfth year, House of Thule brings immersive gameplay, captivating storytelling and exciting worlds to continue the EverQuest legacy, now set in a never-before-seen dreamland full of mystery and adventure. House of Thule offers an expansion rich in content and packed with game-changing features including a level cap increase and the addition of player housing, which new players, veterans and MMO fans will relish.

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Rooms: The Main Building Review


Rooms: the Main Building is a new puzzle game from Hudson. It has several different modes and options to choose from to allow for variety in game play, but don’t be fooled. Rooms is easy to get into, but surprisingly difficult to put down.

In story mode, you are Mr. X. You receive a mysterious gift: entrance into the Rooms Mansion. But as they say, getting in is the easy part. You slide sections of the room around to get to the exit. In the DS version, there are 100 rooms to explore and the puzzles get progressively harder, as you would expect. There are also hazards you’ll encounter when moving through the room. At first, it reminded me of those plastic slide-a-block puzzles you get as a party favor. But in Rooms they take it to another level, with one way entrances and exits, ladders, teleporters, room swappers and other fun tricks that make play more and more challenging without making you want to throw your DS across the room (like most of us did to those stupid plastic puzzles). And the sections are easier to move too, since all it takes is a tap on the screen to move them. You can also unlock achievements by completing certain tasks within the game.

For challenge mode, you have to solve the puzzle with restrictions. For example, you may have a time limit or some of the sections can only move a certain amount of times then you’re stuck. This is good for those times you want “quick and dirty” gameplay; no story, just a puzzle.

You also have the option of building and exchanging levels with other players. You can create and store up to 10 different levels. It’s pretty easy to use; just drag and drop the elements you want in the room onto a grid. You have a running preview of what your room looks like as you build it, so it’s very user friendly.

Graphically, Rooms is quite nice. On the DS, the images are predictably small, but not so small you can’t make them out. The background illustrations are great, with impressive detail on certain items. I was pleasantly surprised at the look of the wood-grain on the ladders. All in all, the graphics enhance your play time.

The background music is also good. It sets the mood very well, but doesn’t get annoying. Instead, it’s mild and soft enough that you don’t mind it running as background noise.

Overall, I really enjoy playing this game. I was surprised at how easily I was sucked into the world. I played through the tutorial and planned on playing a level or two. You can imagine my shock when I realized I’d put in another hour of play before I could pull myself away. It’s a deceptively simple game to play, but as they say, getting in is the easy part.

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Fantasy University on Facebook


Playing the alpha version of Fantasy University, a Facebook game in development from Simutronics Corp .Fantasy University on Facebook wil have a closed beta in June and open enrollment in July.

Players begin by choosing a character class, either Dodgebrawler, Emomancer, Slackninja, Cheermonger or Mathemagician. Player classes are based on everyone’s favorite RPG stereotypes, crossed with everyone’s favorite college stereotypes. Next, players select hair and face options from an equally-recognizable list of options, and enroll in classes at FU.I picked a Slackninja (What can I say? I shrug at the idea of combat.), prettied up my hair, and set off to explore campus.

Players' stats are Beefiosity, Zip, Loathing (like Willpower, only you despise instead of overcoming), Smarts, Charms (looking adorable always helps in difficult situations) and Durability. As you run round fighting hilariously-named bad guys and carefully choosing your side in the Juice Wars, you’ll increase your stats, and earn the local currency, Fubars.

Via Simpson's Paradox » Fantasy University

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Alice in Wonderland IMAX


Truth be told, I’m not the Alice fan; my sister is. She LOVES Alice in Wonderland. I like Alice in Wonderland, but love Mulan more. But I do have a strange affection for the whole Wonderland world. So when news came out that Tim Burton would be giving us his take on the story, I was excited, partly because I like the story, but mostly because I love Tim Burton. So I went ahead and threw down my $18 to see the IMAX version of Alice in Wonderland. Was it worth it?

I guess. Kinda. I enjoyed the movie, but didn’t think it was and “IMAX Experience.”

The story takes place 13 years after Alice’s original trip into Wonderland. She’s now a young woman looking to take her place in society, but not quite ready to fit into the cookie-cutter mold waiting for her. After escaping a really boring looking party, she falls down the rabbit hole again and voila! She’s back in Wonderland. In her wandering, we meet all the usual suspects, including the Tweedles, the Dormouse, the Cheshire cat, and, of course, the Hatter. The Queen of Hearts, also known as the Red Queen, has laid waste to parts of Wonderland and it’s up to Alice to save the day. Except Alice isn’t convinced she’s the one to actually save the day.

Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, seemed very uneven as Alice. According to the story, she’s wandering through her own dream land, but she never seems to commit to anything in the movie. Even when she runs away from the party in the beginning, there is a hesitance in her actions that make it look like she’s just going through the motions. There is a noticeable difference when she was acting on green screen (characters to be filled in later) and when she acted with other people. When she shared the screen with the Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, there was not as much stiffness to her as opposed to when she spoke to the Cheshire Cat. You could definitely tell who was used to doing green-screen work. Depp seemed at home in the Hat. He plays the Hatter on just this side of madness, with an eye blink or a wrinkling of his brow to show his internal choices battle sane vs. mad. The real gems in the cast are the Queens. Helena Bonham-Carter is wickedly wonderful as the Red Queen/Queen of Hearts. Big head/Little body magic aside, she was outrageous without being over the top, and showed just that bit of insecurity to make her seem vulnerable. Anne Hathaway is just as fun as the White Queen, a light, sweet, doll with a surprising spine of steel and just a bit of creepiness to even things out. Both ladies were a joy to watch. Also a joy were Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman who voiced Absolem, the Caterpillar. I quietly squealed in my seat when I heard his deep, rich voice insolently ask, “Who are you?” Crispen Glover, who tends to make his living playing slimy characters, does so here as the Knave of Hearts with relish.

Visually, the film was beautiful. I did like the nod to the original animated film. The CGI flowers were fabulous. Overall, the CGI was great, creating a Wonderland you can actually believe is real, in a storybook sense. However, in IMAX, it wasn’t very impressive. I think the 3D effects were wasted to be honest. There were no real “reach out and touch” scenes, but then there didn’t seem to be a need for them. Alice doesn’t need to be 3D experience. The story does fine on its own.

The music was fun. Composer Danny Elfman has created a fabulous soundscape for the movie, one that you can recognize as his from the first few notes. It meshed the scenes together nicely, adding a touch of urgency and madness to some, softening and slowing other.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. My biggest disappointment was not feeling the need to run back to the box office and buy tickets to see it again (like I did with Star Trek). I recommend watching it on a big screen, but not in IMAX. I just felt it’s an unneeded gimmick for an enjoyable film.

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Plants vs. Zombies


When my brother talked me into installing Popcap’s “Plants vs. Zombies,” I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. He said it was a great intro to tower-defense strategy games. I said the sunflower was cute. He said just play the game. And I did.

And I can’t stop!

Plants vs. Zombies is a easy to master but majorly addictive game where you grow plants to defeat the zombies that want to come eat your brains. Since sun is the key to growing plants, the sunflowers (and later the mushroom) are the key to setting up the perfect defense against the zombie hoards. With solar power harvested from the flowers and occasionally from the sun, you can plants that block, shoot, blow up, devour, drown and otherwise destroy the invading zombies. Sounds easy, right?

As they say, it’s easy getting started, it’s harder to quit.

Graphically, the characters are cute, even the zombies. There are sunflowers that smile, squashes that frown, and even mushrooms that hide. On the Zombie side, there are plain zombies, armored zombies, even zombies that drive Zombonis. The music is great too, never annoying, just enough to set the tone for a showdown with the living-impaired.

And if you ever get tired of killing zombies, or more likely frustrated, there are mini-games that run the gamut of slot-machine plant placement, walnut-bowling, and one that lets you play zombie to the plants. Popcap also gives a nod to its other games with planty versions of Bejeweled and Bejeweled Twist. There’s even the no-stress Zen garden where you have a pet snail and feed it chocolate so it collects money for you. And the money is important, because it lets you upgrade your plants from re-peaters to gatling peashooters and from watermelon catapults to icy wintermelons of doom.

There is more than enough goodness in this game for everyone to enjoy. It’s addictive fun. The music video at the end is worth the wait, though you can find it on YouTube if you’re curious. Overall, just another fabulous game from Popcap.


Big Fish Games:

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"Casual" gaming on facebook?


When I joined Facebook, I didn’t think of it as a portal to endless apps and games. I didn’t even join Facebook to catch up with my friends from high school. I joined Facebook to look at a few pictures my family posted.

So how did I get sucked into the gaming parts?

It started pretty simply. Friends that found me on Facebook would invite me to play Bejeweled, but then invited me to be a neighbor in Farmville (virtual farming). Then Café World (virtual diner)… then Mafia Wars (virtual GTA)… And pretty soon I had eight or nine game apps bookmarked for ‘casual’ gaming. And it started off casual. I’d log in to catch up with my peeps, then check the farm, plant a crop or two, then off to the diner to cook up burgers… go rob a virtual bank and hope to find a switchblade as the loot drop … you get the drill. Then, as in just about any game, I leveled up.

And then it started.

I was checking my crops twice a day, then three times, then more. I’d send shout outs to my mafia every other hour because someone beat me up and took my money. I’d need to make sure there were no spoiled dishes on my stoves. I’d need to make sure my fish weren’t dead, and if they were, beg my neighbors to revive them. Pretty soon, I was spending half an hour ‘on the farm’ just harvesting fruit off my trees. I had to collect all the money from my businesses and put it into the bank, or I’d get jacked by Default Don. I’d have to time my café dishes so I could go to sleep without running out of food, because if I did, my rating would go down and it would be harder to level up. THE HORROR!

It was when I was up at 4:30 in the morning, milking my cows that I realized there is no such thing as casual gaming on Facebook. You start off putting in a few minutes here and there on one or two games. But you get hooked and end up spending hours and hours in virtual land feeding chickens that won’t die and ‘reviving’ fish that did.

Every game is a super sneaky time-sink worse than any video game because it’s free, you don’t have to turn on any consoles or find any controllers, and it’s almost always available. And if you’re like me, you feel guilty heading to bed when your virtual cows need to be milked. And Heaven forbid you pick up a book when your virtual fish are dying…

I tried to get away; I tried to only log in twice a day, once in the morning, once before bed. If the soup spoiled, oh well; I’ll cook up something that takes three days to finish. I’d scour the feeds for ‘farmhands’ and ‘arborists’ so when I went to my now-HUGE farm, I’d just need to click the button and everything was taken care of. I still had dead fish, but I realized they’d not get any deader, so feed the rest and let someone else bring them back. And it worked for a while.

Until someone else got hooked.

I would get friend requests that I’d accept, then neighbor requests that I’d ignore. And I’d try to come up with lame excuses for not accepting the neighbor requests like “I never got the request” or “My baby accidently pressed ‘ignore…’” I’d resorted to blaming my offspring for not wanting to help my friends build a chicken coop or not wanting to save some bride’s wedding. That’s when I’d realized I’d gone too far…

So I’m back on the farm again, but I’m playing it safe with four-day crops. I took the door off my café and only put it back when I feel like cooking for someone. I still get jacked in Mafia Wars, but it’s ok, since I usually don’t have money to steal. And I flushed the dead fish… mostly. I try not to give these games the time I used to, and for the most part it works. I still enjoy playing them. I’ve just figured out how to play them on my terms.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to summon Ballista.

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Hints for MyTribe on Facebook


Are you playing MyTribe on Facebook? Are you ever confused by the mysterious objects on your island? This blog post talks about the strengths of MyTribe and explains how to solve the MyTribe Mysteries:

Grubby Games’ My Tribe has just been turned into a Facebook social game. I played the original My Tribe about a year ago (yeah, I know, I love desert island survival games). The goal in the new Facebook game, like in the original, is to build a flourishing island tribe, and to solve the mysterious objects on your island.

Island Paradise or the ever-popular FarmVille, require you to have friends help you. FarmVille, and other successful social games, turn guanxi into a game, creating a virtual exchange of mooncakes. In Island Paradise, the “quests” are all necessary items you can’t have unless you ask your social network for clickthrough help until you succeed. Or your friends unfriend you. Either way.

You can read the rest and see how to unlock the MyTribe mysteries at Simpson's Paradox » My Tribe For Facebook

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HauntedGrave WitchThe ReckoningThe AwakeningThe SummoningSister of the Dead

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