The End of Planetarion?

By Pete | @kingpetey | 29 Aug 2002

Yesterday is was announced that the 8th round of Planetarion would be the last one, Planetarion the online text based game which started in January 2000 has found it increasing difficult over the last few months to keep the game going financially, so 5th season AS (the company behind Planetarion) announced in a special creators hour last night that the game will be ending after the next round.

Though some people think that this may be a scam to get more people to play Planetarion incase round 8 is the last round the community is clearly shocked that this has come this sudden. In Planetarion?s peak the game had over 100,000 players though once the game went pay to play the game slowly lost players. Efforts have been made to try to get new players to join the game and a number of free accounts were given out for new people to try out the game, however these free accounts didn't seem to bring Planetarion the new players it needed to stay alive. An irc channel has already been setup on the irc network.

The people behind #pa-stay are looking for over 10k players to play Planetarion next round, however if pa was continue then the community will need to have at least 10k paying players each round. Though it has not been said if the amount of money generated by 10k players will cover the costs of the game and pay off any remaining debts.

There has also been talk about whether the IRC network itself will be effected by Planetarion closing, however the general aim is that will keep going however its not certain how many people will remain on the network as most of the users are pa related. It looks like the forums will not remain if Planetarion was to end unless suitable hosting was found for them, however with no game a lot of the discussions which happen on the boards will not take place as a lot of the conversation is pa related. No one seems quite sure how long the 'creators' have been planning to close the game, though perhaps moving the irc network away from Planetarion was one of their first steps.

They have also announced that they have been working on another game based on football leagues however it's still unsure if they intend to release this game and if they intend to charge for it. I would have thought that many of the pa clones will try to take as many players as they can one of the popular alternatives being Starsphere. What ever happens the future of Planetarion seems uncertain and what happens over the coming months could decide the fate of Planetarion and its community.

Yahoo Instant Messenger 5.5

By Pete | @kingpetey | 27 Aug 2002

This week Yahoo released their latest version of their instant messenger, but is it up to the same standards of the likes of MSN AIM and ICQ? My first impressions were very good, YIM (Yahoo instant messenger) had some nice features that the other popular instant messengers didn?t use such as web cam support and some useful tabs unlike the ones present in MSN that seem aimed at getting you to spend money rather then provide useful information.

The layout of YIM is very nice and is easy to use, some nice gfx have been used giving YIM the same feel as AOL instant messenger. YIM also lets you change your away messages similar to the way ICQ does which is useful if you want to say why you are away or how long you will be. Another interesting idea YIM has is IM environments, this is basically themes for your instant messenger windows which in ways look nice but others just get annoying.

The main downside I found to Yahoo is not to do with the program but the lack of friends I know that use it. Since at early time online I have used ICQ then MSN Messenger thus a lot of my friends have mainly gone on to use MSN messenger for various reasons, the ones which do use YIM normally use another IM as well such as myself. Somehow Yahoo has to give people a good reason to change their IM habits from messengers such as MSN and AIM to their own messenger.

The other instant messenger programs I believe do have a head start over Yahoo for instance MSN messenger is now installed with every version of windows and AIM is installed with Macs now and comes built into Netscape and Mozilla web browsers. Personally I think that if YIM is to survive against the other large messenger services it needs to get its self bundled with a lot more other software so that more people can easily get to use it.

Another criticism I have of the software is not being able to change your screen name easily, people often like to convey their thoughts through their screen name such as on MSN messenger but I could not find this feature on YIM. Yahoo was one of the first large networks to bring together its ID program into all its online features, for instance my account can access geocities, email, instant messaging, calendar and a wide range of other features however now I feel Yahoo hasn?t been able to keep up with the likes of msn passport or AOL and needs to make a lot of changes to survive in the future.

Overall YIM 5.5 is one of the best instant messengers out there if your friends and colleagues use it, otherwise stick to one of the other large networks or get yourself onto IRC. I?m giving YIM 5.5 7/10.

Columns Overhall

By Pete | @kingpetey | 25 Aug 2002

If your reading this then the "overhall" on the columns is well under way. We have 2 new columners, Jamie and Shenton so welcome them. We are eager for some content from them as soon as possible. More to come soon.

Today Apple announced the launch of their latest operating system for the Mac computer named OS X 10.2. The launch date also collides with the 7 year anniversary of the launch of Windows 95 which was the most extravagant product launch in computing history. The new OS is to go head to head with Microsoft?s Windows XP though it is more of a catch up then making many leaps ahead of their biggest rival. Mac users are excited about this latest launch however I'm unsure if the latest OS will be enough to woo customers from a declining pc market from the pc to the more expensive Mac.

This news comes just after Gateway computers have announced its all in one computer the profile 4 which is going into direct competition with the stylish imac, which can be seen by the similar pricing plan. What makes the profile 4 different to the profile 3 computers is that the profile 4 is now upgradeable. Experts are still skeptic as apple only have a 5% market share in the desktop computer market while Microsoft occupy a large percentage of over 92%. Apple have added many new features into OS X 10.2 including a instant messenger using the aol network and a new mail client, however these features are already in windows XP so apple do not have many unique selling points to market their new OS.

Apple has also announced that they are renaming their iTools service to .Mac in another bid to compete with Microsoft?s .net tools. Microsoft announced this week that they were launching msn for Mac in an attempt to go against rumours that they are not as committed to Mac as they were previously. Either way Apple still have a long way to go before they can catch a larger proportion of the desktop market. Personally Macs are too expensive for myself to afford so there wont be one on my christmas list.

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Xbox Live

By Pete | @kingpetey | 22 Aug 2002

For those that don?t know the Xbox is a major games console produced by Microsoft, so far the Xbox has been very successful and has sold many games including the very popular Halo. On November 15th 2002 Microsoft will start to offer a new service for Xbox called Xbox Live, this is basically a complete world of online gaming for the Xbox meaning you can play games with other people around the world. However Xbox live will only be available for broadband/cable users because of the large amount of bandwidth such games take up to play online. A starting kit will be available for the Xbox that will include the necessary kit needed to be able to play games online. It also contains a microphone as all games will have voice chat enabled this is mainly because as the Xbox does not come with a keyboard as default it can get hard to chat to fellow gamers with a game pad.

Microsoft is taking a different view into online gaming for its console compared to its rivals which include Sony who produce the Playstation series. Microsoft are providing all the online software needed to get a game online while Sony rely on the games developers themselves to produce all the necessary software for getting their game online. The smaller games producers like the approach from Microsoft as it saves them a lot of work for little extra money, while the big companies such as Electronic Arts, who produce such games as Red Alert 2 and Medal of Honour, find the approach annoying as they have already invested heavily in online games markets.

Either way Microsoft looks to once again being at the forefront of the console online gaming revolution and will be a major contender in many years to come in the console market. Its system will certainly make it easier for the end user to play games online with its simple interface making all online games easy to access. Games producers for Sony intend to have games coming online to the Playstation 2 early next year.

The face of console gaming is going to change a lot in the coming months as it did when people started getting into online gaming on the PC. I personally think that games sales will continue to increase and the number of people taking up broadband will also increase.