Very Noteworthy: Wizard101

Wizard101, the new teen and ‘tween world with a whiff of Harry Potter about it, announced today that it was heading into open beta. Developer KingsIsle Entertainment only came out of a three-year stealth mode last month, so it seems like quick turnaround. Users play as students of the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts, customize their avatars, play casual games, adopt pets, and work together as they adventure through various fantastical environments. KingsIsle is aiming for a launch in Q3 of 2008.

Virtual Worlds News: Wizard101 Heads to Open Beta

I’ve been playing Wizard101 for a week now and I love it.

Worthy components:

  • Gorgeous animations (seamless, non-buggy, full/rich colors, smooooooooooooth)
  • Full of purpose (Multiple quests, enriching story, characters galore, users-necessary for epic)
  • Community integration (You have your own room in the dorm of your gender, you are split into unique factions based on your personality, you have a variety of emote/actions)
  • Safe (canned/pre-written chat, predictive quests, constant guidance, encouraging comment support, canned-name-patterns)
  • Play patterns (from the obvious Harry Potter associations to the Dungeons & Dragons/Pokemon card game battles, to school play, to world adventurer)
  • Long term play (Various game patterns – from questing to necessary casual gaming, leveling, achievements, and expanding world)

The only complaints I have are very, very minute: namely, the pre-scripted chat makes interacting with others a little more difficult (time/action barrier to engagement), the quests feel a bit heavy at times (too necessary, like if you don’t go on them, you can’t excel in the world), and it can be a bit gamey-gamey (if I just want to be a student, hang in classes, make cliques, and concentrate on boarding-school-play, it doesn’t seem be to recognized as a play pattern). OH yes – and the avatar generator is kinda “meh” – still gorgeous, but the individualization isn’t really there (I can’t really pick a different style of outfit other than colors, and I can’t get my avatar to have short blonde hair and blue eyes so that it looks like me). I tend to be one who likes to make avatars look as close to “me” (as in – me, a character of that world) as possible.  Now, I must remember this IS in Beta… and they have PLENTY of time/opportunities to adjust customizations.  The bonus of being a young VW/MMO 😉

It’s a HUGE downlaod – but to get that kind of quality, I almost don’t mind. Sometimes it feels a bit condescending youth (I’m just not a personal advocate for squishy adult NPC’s who act like mother goose – half the brilliance of the Hogwarts professors is that they seem to have their own lives and are a bit gritty).

And yet even with all of those things – I have to say, Wizard101 is one of THE BEST virtual worlds/MMO’s i have seen this year. Seriously.

If this kind of quality is where the industry is going… then a-stinkin-men! W00T.

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