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Note #0: It’s been a while since I posted anything at all on this blog. Just to let you know, I haven’t completely given up on it just yet, I have just been busy(TM) with other stuff.

In April 2000 a revolutionary methodology for reviewing video-games saw the light of day at the Old Man Murray-website; the Crate Review System. The basis for this new reviewing-system was very simple; since virtually all games contain crates, all games could be judged empirically on those crates. The longer you could play a game without seeing any crates (wooden or otherwise), the better the game. Or to put it in completely different terms: The shorter the time (in seconds) from the start of the game until the first crate is found, the worse the game. This unit of measurement was dubbed “Start to Crate” (StC for short).

I had forgotten about the above until recently, when I came across (through another blog, but unfortunately I can’t remember which!) an old Gamasutra-article by Ernest W. Adams (also listed on his “No Twinkie Database“-page). The article was not only an interesting read (along with everything else in the No Twinkie Database), it also contained a link to the Crate Review System at Old Man Murray.

While I was reading the old crate reviews there, I started thinking about how well this system of reviewing games would apply to MMORPGs, which are a very special breed of games indeed. With only one way to find out, I put on my research hat and started downloading numerous free trials, as well as re-activating some of my old MMORPG-subscriptions, determined to check the StC-times in an ungodly amount (Thirty-one in total) of MMORPGs.

Note #1: The original system didn’t differentiate between crates and their cousins, the circular crates also known as “barrels”. I check for both separately, and thus ended up with StC and StB values for each game.

Note #2: Some of the games I tried had multiple starting locations. In those cases I visited all the available starting locations and timed the StCs and StBs for those one by one. Unless I didn’t like the game, or I was distracted by food/TV/all the walls that keep staring at me. In those cases I only did one starting location.

Read on for the results of my research.

9 Dragons

Developer: Indy21Barrels and crates in 9 Dragons
Website: http://9dragons.acclaim.com
Release date: 2009.02.12

StC/StB in Zixia Dong: 15 / – seconds
StC/StB in Tai Shan: 5 / 5 seconds
StC/StB in Tianjin: 0 / 0 seconds
StC/StB in Wu-Tang Shan: 15 / – seconds
StC/StB in Song-Shan: 20 / – seconds
StC/StB in Mount Yanmo: 1 / 12 seconds

How to find: Too many different locations to explain in detail. Hard to miss, in any case.

Comment: 9 Dragons sports all of 6 different starting locations, yet all of those use crates (and to a lesser degree barrels) as a decorative element very early on.

Age of Conan

Developer: FuncomBarrels and crates in Age of Conan
Website: http://www.ageofconan.com
Release date: 2008.05.20

StC: 10 seconds
StB: 10 seconds

How to find: Walk straight forward off the beach and towards the jungle, and you’ll see these crates and barrels right next to the chained up vixen.

Comment: An alternative StC here is 0 seconds, depending on whether or not one counts the broken remains of crates and barrels lying around in the sand. At the very least the crates aren’t the default “square box with generic wooden crate-texture on each side”-type, they actually fit the setting, and many of them look like they could’ve been crafted by a blind, drunk and one-armed carpenter. Which might not be entirely unlikely in Conan’s world.

Anarchy Online

Developer: FuncomCrates in Anarchy Online
Website: http://www.anarchyonline.com
Release date: 2001.06.27

StC: 0 seconds
StB: N/A

How to find: Crate is visible straight ahead immediately after logging in, right next to the first quest-giver. Couldn’t find any barrels.

Comment: The crates have a futuristic look, which I guess is a bonus, but they’re still crates. Maybe the crate in the starting location is meant as a sort of incentive to get the player to do the starting quest. “Look, I have a crate full of… stuff… that I’ll potentially give to you if you do what I tell you!”

Asheron’s Call

Developer: TurbineBarrels and crates in Asheron's Call
Website: http://ac.turbine.com
Release date: 1999.11.02

StC in Tutorial: 375 seconds
StB in Tutorial: 285 seconds
StC in Sandmar: 25 seconds
StB in Sandmar: 39 seconds
StC in Holtburg: 1-5 seconds
StB in Holtburg: 1-5 seconds
StC in Yaraq: 20 seconds
StB in Yaraq: 24 seconds
StC in Shoushi: 65 seconds
StB in Shoushi: 82 seconds

How to find: Too many locations to explain in detail. It did not, however – with the exception being the tutorial – take long to find any crates and/or barrels in any of the starting locations.

Comment: First time playing this game since the year 2000 or some such. Last time I kept getting teleported out of the town I was in due to lag or some such. Wasn’t an issue this time around, only a couple of other people around that I could see.

Bounty Bay Online

Developer: Suzhou SnailBarrels and crates in Bounty Bay Online
Website: http://www.bountybayonline.com
Release date: 2007.09.14

StC: -79 seconds
StB: -79 seconds

How to find: Start the game. Look at the character selection screen. Crates AND barrels. *facepalm* Also, if you’re picky, it takes 3 seconds after you’ve entered the game-world until you see your first in-game crates and barrels (just turn the camera).

Comment: Mmm yeah. Since both crates and barrels were visible on the character selection screen, and it took me 79 seconds to create a character and enter the game-world, I give Bounty Bay Online StC and StB values of negative 79 seconds.

Champions Online

Developer: CrypticBarrels and crates in Champions Online
Website: http://www.champions-online.com
Release date: 2009.09.01

StC: 5-10 seconds
StB: N/A

How to find: The first crate is visible almost immediately after logging in, although you really have to squint to see it from where you appear in the game. You’ll get around to taking a closer look after a few seconds – depending on how long you spend gawking at other newbie heroes and heroines that pop up around you.

Comment: I played up to level 8, and had not yet found a single barrel by then, so I quit. But crates? Zomg, don’t get me started. They’re EVERYWHERE!

Chronicles of Spellborn

Developer: Spellborn InternationalBarrels and crates in Chronicles of Spellborn
Website: http://spellborn.acclaim.com
Release date: 2009.04.23

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 100 seconds

How to find: The first crates are actually the focus-points you see immediately after your character has appeared in the game. The barrels can be found behind the first door you go through.

Comment:The reason why it takes 100 seconds to find the first barrels is that before you can go through the first door (to your left after entering the game), you need to complete a tutorial that goes like this: “Navigate around these crates. Now jump on these crates. Now KILL THESE EVIL CRATES!”

CrimeCraft

Developer: Vogster EntertainmentBarrels and crates in Crimecraft
Website: http://www.crimecraft.com
Release date: 2009.08.25

StC: 245 seconds
StB: 220 seconds

How to find: Plenty of both barrels and crates can be found in the “Stockpile” battle-arena which you can enter some time after arriving in-game (It took me a minute or two to actually enter the aforementioned area. Your mileage may vary, though.)

Comment: Could not seem to find any crates or barrels in the main hub/town-area at all.

Dofus

Developer: Ankama GamesBarrels and crates in Dofus
Website: http://www.dofus.com
Release date: 2005.09.01

StC: 45 seconds
StB: 50 seconds

How to find: After you quickly run through the first couple of screens and exit the mountain/temple-area, you head directly east (i.e. out the right side of your screen) until you run into some houses with crates and barrels outside.

Comment: To be fair, you need to follow a specific path to run into the crates and barrels this early. If you take off in a different direction (not east) after leaving the temple-thingy, you might not run into any crates or barrels at all for a long time. I never tried.

Dragonica

Developer: Barunson InteractiveBarrels and crates in Dragonica
Website: http://dragonica.iahgames.com
Release date: 2009.06.10

StC: 240 seconds
StB: 420 seconds

How to find: Follow the directions the game tries to prod you in until you get to the nearest town.

Comment: While it took me 7 minutes to find the first barrels – which were the “wine-storage”-type barrels lying on wooden feet, with taps in them – it took me all of 35 minutes to find the first “generic” barrels (the ones standing straight up and down on the ground). Yes, I played for more than 35 minutes; I liked the music. And the cute sheep I had to kill. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!

Dream of Mirror Online

Developer: Softstar EntertainmentBarrels and crates in Dream of Mirror Online
Website: http://domo.aeriagames.com
Release date: 2007.11.12

StC (Tutorial) 5 seconds
StC: 120 seconds
StB: 420 seconds

How to find: You’ll find the first crates in the Tutorial after 5 seconds just by moving a few steps and rotating the camera. After the tutorial, you’ll need to explore the huge town you appear in a bit before you find the crates/barrels inside various buildings.

Comment: Very cartoony gfx-style. Almost like an animated painting. With crates.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

Developer: TurbineBarrels and crates in DnD Online
Website: http://www.ddo.com
Release date: 2006.02.28

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 20 seconds

How to find: First crates (numerous) are floating in the water right where you start off. The first barrel can be found in a camp not far from the beach.

Comment: Lotssss of crates, slightly less so with barrels. Thankfully, many of them are destructible, so you can reduce the number with a little effort. Beware of splinters, though.

Ether Saga Online

Developer: Perfect World EntertainmentBarrels and crates in Ether Saga Online
Website: http://eso.perfectworld.com
Release date: 2009.03.17

StC: 1680 seconds
StB: 1950 seconds

How to find: Crates can be found in the first town you get to, in and around many of the stores there. Barrels were harder to find – actually don’t remember where I found the ones in the screenshot.

Comment: Very cute game. Nice scenery, atmospheric music. Extreme respawn-rates, monsters you kill almost respawn before you’re done killing them. Best of all – crates are only used as decorative elements sparingly. At least early on.

Football Superstars

Developer: CyberSports
Website: http://footballsuperstars.com
Release date: 2008.12.31

StC: N/A
StB: N/A

How to find: You can’t – there are none!

Comment: We have a winner? Couldn’t find any crates and/or barrels on the pitch, in the gym, in the stores, in the hub-area, or in the lobby. Something wrong isn’t quite right here…

FreeRealms

Developer: SOE San DiegoBarrels and crates in Free Realms
Website: http://www.freerealms.com
Release date: 2009.04.29

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 40 seconds

How to find: The first crate is visible immediately after entering the game-world. The first barrel can be found down the road a bit (straight ahead from where you start off, past the first town).

Comment:*shrug* Nothing to see here, move along.

Furcadia

Developer: Dragon’s Eye ProductionsBarrels and crates in Furcadia
Website: http://www.furcadia.com
Release date: 1996.12.16

StC: 10 seconds
StB: 10 seconds

How to find: Move a screen to the southeast after logging in.

Comment:Ancient game. Couldn’t stand to play it for more than 10 seconds. Thankfully, that’s how long it took me to find the first crates and/or barrels.

FusionFall

Developer: Grigon EntertainmentBarrels and crates in Fusionfall
Website: http://www.fusionfall.com
Release date: 2009.01.14

StC: 600 seconds
StB: 2700+ seconds

How to find: The first crate can be found nearby after you exit the starting area. Could not find any barrels.

Comment: Finally, someone has found a proper function for wooden crates in these games; you stack them on top of eachother to make it possible for players to reach areas higher up (rooftops, for instance). Brilliant.

GodsWar Online

Developer: IGGBarrels and crates in GodsWarOnline
Website: http://gw.igg.com
Release date: 2009.08.05

StC: 1115 seconds
StB: 36 seconds

How to find: The first barrels can be found just by looking around a bit in the starting town. To the northwest, for instance. It took me some time to find the first crates though – had to go to a different town altogether and cross two different zones/maps in the process.

Comment: Barren towns, almost no decoration apart from the barrels and/or crates I found, and some lampposts. I guess they figured “Hey, we have crates, and we have barrels. What else do we really need?”

Hello Kitty Online

Developer: SanrioBarrels and crates in Hello Kitty Online
Website: http://www.hellokittyonline.com
Release date: July 1, 2009

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 0 seconds

How to find: Log in. Then look at the screen. You’ll see crates and barrels. And a police-man guarding them, even.

Comment: Amazing. In the starting area/town/harbor-thing you can’t walk 10 steps without stumbling over either a bunch of crates and/or barrels. I wish I was joking. There are some wood-like areas outside the starter town where there are none, but as soon as you approach anything that even smells of civilization in that area – yep, there will be crates and barrels both.

Thankfully, there don’t seem to be any crates or barrels in the next zone (a larger town). Maybe they used up all the available crate/barrel-assets in the starter area? We can only hope. For the sake of the next generation of game developers (aka the children who play this game, and who could end up with the idea of crates and barrels being a necessary element to the success of games).

Istaria

Developer: VirtriumBarrels and crates in Istaria
Website: http://www.istaria.com
Release date: 2003.12.09

StC: 15 seconds
StB: -140 seconds

How to find: Barrels can be found in the character creation screen, and inside houses in the first town outside of tutorial island. To find crates, leave the tutorial island by hopping through a portal down the road somewhere, then stroll down to the nearby town on the other side. Crates can be found on your left as you enter the town. The time it takes to find these crates depends on how long you spend on the tutorial island – though takes about 15 seconds after you’ve left it.

Comment: I don’t like tutorial islands. They mess up my StC times.

Jumpgate

Developer: NetDevilBarrels and crates in Jumpgate
Website: http://www.jossh.com
Release date: 2001.09.25

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 0 seconds

How to find: Start the game. You’ll find plenty of crates and barrels in the dockyard where your spaceship resides.

Comment: In ages where mankind have conquered the laws of gravity and speed of light and all that nonsense, we still resort to the tried-and-tested method of using wooden crates and (non-wooden) barrels for purposes of storage. Other than in those docking stations though, space is mysteriously void of any crates and/or barrels. Unless ships you destroy in ship-to-ship combat happen to drop any – I don’t know, I didn’t manage to find, much less destroy any other ships while I tested this game.

Neo Steam

Developer: JoyImpactBarrels and crates in Neo Steam
Website: http://neosteam.atlusonline.com
Release date: 2009.06.11

StC: 30 seconds
StB: 30 seconds

How to find: Found the first pile of both crates and barrels after casually looking around for 30 seconds after appearing ingame in one of presumably two starting areas.

Comment: Only managed to play for the 30 seconds it took to find the first pile of over-sized crates and barrels, before starting to feel like I had some epileptic seizures coming on due to some serious flickering of the screen, so I quit.

Runes of Magic

Developer: RunewakerBarrels and crates in Runes of Magic
Website: http://www.runesofmagic.com
Release date: 2009.03.19

StC: 0-5 seconds
StB: 0-5 seconds

How to find: Experienced two different starting areas. In the first area, my character had pointy ears and crates could be seen the moment I logged in. Barrels, after turning the camera 180 degrees. In the second starting area both the crates and barrels were visible immediately, though at a distance. Took around 5 seconds to run up to them and take a closer look, peering at them over the town walls.

Comment: I think Runes of Magic may have set a new record when it comes to the number of crates and barrels the player encounters in the first 5 seconds of game-play.

Ryzom

Developer: NevraxBarrels and crates in Ryzom
Website: http://www.ryzom.com
Release date: 2004.09.19

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 0 seconds

How to find: Numerous crates and barrels visible in the immediate area around the starting location. Hard to miss.

Comment: I have no comment.

Shaiya

Developer: Sonovaslag EntertainmentBarrels and crates in Shaiya
Website: http://shaiya.aeriagames.com
Release date: 2007.12.24

StC: 120 seconds
StB: 1 second

How to find: Took me 1 second to find the first crate by turning around 180 degrees. The first crates I didn’t get to until I entered the nearby town after 2 minutes. Only tested one starting location (the “dark/evil” one).

Comment: I’m not actually “reviewing” these games on any other criteria than StC and StB, but… I can’t avoid commenting here. The scenery in this game is incredibly… bland. As if someone made some generic terrain with a couple of generic textures, created some bumps and hills here and there, then proceeded to plop down a few trees, bushes and mobs at random locations. Coupled with some very mediocre movement-animations this was a very uninspiring experience. I couldn’t bare the thought of creating a new character in the “good faction” to look for crates and barrels there, so I quit and uninstalled the game. After which I was prompted to restart my computer.

The Lord of the Rings Online

Developer: TurbineBarrels and crates in Lord of the Rings Online
Website: http://www.lotro.com
Release date: 2007.04.24

StC – Human: 20 sec
StB – Human: 3 sec
StC – Dwarf: 60 seconds
StB – Dwarf: 450 seconds
StC – Hobbit: 3 seconds
StB – Hobbit: 285 seconds
StC – Elf: 1016 seconds
StB – Elf: 1491 seconds

How to find: Too many locations to list in detail, though the human ones start you off right next to a barrel and only a short distance from the first crate. The elven area had no crates, barrels or anything even resembling crates or barrels, and I didn’t run into any until I left the elven-specific starting area and arrived in the one they share with the dwarves.

Comment: I included the tutorials for each race when timing the StCs & StBs for LotRO, since the tutorial-areas are so well crafted and actually fulfills a purpose plot-wise.

Tibia

Developer: CipSoftBarrels and crates in Tibia
Website: http://www.tibia.com
Release date: 1997.01

StC: 80 seconds
StB: 60 seconds

How to find: Move eastward, talk to dude, go into his house, climb his ladders.

Comment: This was Ultima Online before Ultima Online was released :P Second-oldest game I’ve “reviewed” here now. The tradition of having crates and barrels in these games is long indeed.

Ultima Online

Developer: OriginMythicBarrels and crates in Ultima Online
Website: http://www.uo.com
Release date: 1997.09.25

StC: 11 seconds
StB: 0 seconds

How to find: Barrels can be found immediately on-screen as you enter the game on the docks of Haven, and crates are only a screen further up from the docks.

Comment: When I decided to re-test UO for the first time in a long time, I was initially going to check all the classic starting locations. Yew, Britain, Trinsic, etc. However, I was unable to actually start at any of those locations and always ended up in the newbie town of “Haven” (aka a messed up Occlo) – who built that place, btw? A lot of corners cut in that place, doesn’t really match the attention to detail in the rest of the game. Lots of crates, though.

Warhammer Online

Developer: EA MythicBarrels and crates in Warhammer Online
Website: http://www.warhammeronline.com
Release date: 2008.09.18

StC – Order: 1 second
StB – Order: 1 second
StC – Chaos: 0 seconds
StB – Chaos: 585 seconds (or 60 in straight line)

How to find: In the Order starting area, the first crates and barrels can be found by turning the camera around. In the Chaos area, the first crates are immediately visible, while the first barrels can be found by a nearby bridge which can be reached either in 1 minute by running in a straight line and jumping down a hill, or by 585 seconds by following the “proper” flow of the game-play.

Comment: If I had a comment I’d write it here, but since I don’t, I won’t.

Warrior Epic

Developer: Possibility SpaceBarrels and crates in Warrior Epic
Website: http://www.warriorepic.com/home/
Release date: 2009.05.19

StC: 0 seconds
StB: 80 seconds

How to find: The first crate sits on the wagon right next to you when you start out. The first “barrels” can be found in the various ruins you encounter as you move through the forest.

Comment: I lied; I didn’t actually find any barrels. However, I found some urns that serve the exact same purpose and function as barrels. So. Yeah. I found barrels.

World of Warcraft

Developer: BlizzardBarrels and crates in World of Warcraft
Website: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com
Release date: 2004.11.23

StC – Humans: 12 seconds
StB – Humans: 0 seconds
StC – Night Elves: 30 seconds
StB – Night Elves: 30 seconds
StC – Orcs: 10 seconds
StB – Orcs: 1 seconds
StC – Undeads: 40 seconds
StB – Undeads: 48 seconds
StC – Dwarves/Gnomes: 0 seconds
StB – Dwarves/Gnomes: 0 seconds
StC – Draenei: 30 seconds
StB – Draenei:190 seconds
StC – Tauren: 40 seconds
StB – Tauren: 40 seconds
StC – Death-Knights: 15 seconds
StB – Death-Knights: 15 seconds

How to find: Too many starting locations to explain in detail. Check the screenshot!

Comment: There seems to be no shortage of crates or barrels in World of Warcraft. The carpenters in Azeroth must be rich.


Conclusion

So, what conclusions can I draw from the above research which I’ve put quite a lot of time and effort into doing? Well. Firstly, that MMORPGs are no different from any other games – crates will be crates and seem to refuse to be left out of any game no matter what. Maybe game-developers world-wide are contractually obligated (by contract, with crate-makers) to include crates in their games? If so, either not everyone got the memo, or they ignored it (Football Superstars, I’m looking at you).

Finally, to sum up the results of the reviews:

Best game in review: Football Superstars, with ZERO crates and ZERO barrels.
Runner up: Ether Saga Online, which provides you with 1680 and 1950 seconds before you encounter the first crates and barrels.
Worst game in review: Bounty Bay Online, which presents you with both crates and barrels 79 seconds before you’ve even created your character.
Special award: Ultima Online, for showing us that one can never have enough barrels and/or crates in any given area.

And with that, this review has come to an end, and I can go back to playing Dragon Age.

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