22nd September 2009

Enter The Faunasphere

FaunasphereFor those who have never heard of Faunasphere, I will borrow a few words from the game’s official site. Please feel free to click on the thumbnails placed through out this article to get a better look at the environment and features, or hover over them for image descriptions.Ellie

Faunasphere is a “browser-based CMO (Casual Multiplayer Online) game, players adopt and care for cute and quirky creatures known as Fauna and collaborate to build and explore beautiful virtual worlds. From the creator and lead designer of Asheron’s Call, Faunasphere engages a broad casual gamer audience through non-violent game play, rich social networking elements, and an immersive storyline. The game is free to play, and features micro-transactions and premium membership to enhance the game play experience.”

Mire KnollOfficially launched by Big Fish Games on August 12 of this year, Faunasphere has several game play features:

* Fauna lay eggs as they level up. Eggs can be hatched to create new Fauna or traded between players.

* 12 Fauna breeds to adopt and care for, with an endless array of visual variations to explore. Players can try to breed Fauna for specific traits, or can purchase special items to transform them.Zapping Pollution

* Players can customize their own corner of the world by designing a Faunasphere to shelter their Fauna. Items to decorate and improve a player’s Faunasphere can be collected via game play, traded between players, or purchased.

* Players advance through the world via unique, non-violent game play. Fauna clean up pollution and complete tasks to earn game currency and level up.

Happy Food For a Happy Fauna* The game can be played as a no-commitment diversion, but offers deeper involvement for committed players.

Features not listed above but which I feel are important to include:

Faunasphere is very easy to play. While reading is required, the game play is simple to pick up, the characters are cute – and sometimes very unique depending on how their caretakers have customized them, and the game’s community is incredibly friendly. That is one aspect of the game that really Home Sphere Buildingstruck me. I know from reading through the game’s community forums that there have been problem users, just like in any online game. That said, the players who inhabit Faunasphere are friendly and even considerate. They even give you items if they think they somehow “stepped on” something you were doing or planning to do. They readily offer assistance should anyone require help with a task or cleaning up some of the higher-level pollution monsters.

Rock GardenFor my adventures into the Faunasphere, I chose to look after one of the Hoofers, which are horse-like characters. Players can choose from a Hoofer, Sniffer or Scooter, each with its own set of attributes, likes and dislikes. Each character likes different food, comfort, beauty and amusement items. These likes and dislikes are important to bear in mind when building a faunasphere, and particularly when you create a Den for your Fauna to rejuvenate in. Your Fauna likes to be in a place which makes it happy, so it’s important to use the “Happy” items which your Fauna prefers.

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21st September 2009

Still Plenty To Do This Month In Digital Media

Canada – With National Digital Media Day almost upon us, there are many events happening around the country this week – here is just a small sampling; I will be updating our Events Calendar today with a fuller list of coming events.

Village Gamer will be attending Appy Hour this Friday. Presented by The Social Agency, The Social Agencyin partnership with Rogers Communications, this event is designed to inform, connect and provide opportunities for the rapidly growing industry surrounding Apple’s i-phone. Appy Hour is taking place this Friday at The Diamond in Vancouver.

“More than ever before, app developers need information, resources and a bit of inside information from the pioneers who’ve already successfully launched with Apple’s i-phone.” Says Monica Krake, Communications Director of The Social Agency, “By bringing this community together to access expertise from pros like Michael Fergusson and Jonathan Carrigan, The Social Agency is applauding National Digital Media Day’s goal to support and promote Canada’s interactive digital community.”

Lynda Brown-Ganzert, Founder of National Digital Media Day adds that “Canada is producing some of the best digital content out there, but companies have big challenges to overcome if we want to be world-leaders in this burgeoning sector. National Digital Media Day brings the industry together to discuss these opportunities and to raise the profile of emerging talent – like the people presenting at Appy Hour.”

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s National Digital Media Day’s celebration will take place on Thursday, September 24th- they’re getting the party on early at Shannon’s Irish Pub beginning at 5pm.

In tonight’s seminar on Understanding SEO, Web development guru Tim Lloyd and veteran marketer Pam Brain will discuss the relationship between your brand, the language associated with it and leveraging available technology to drive how your clients find you online. Learn how keywords really work on the web so that your site works harder and communicates better.

The Business Council of BC presents Chapter 2 in their Outlook 2020 series, Foundations For The Future, on Tuesday evening at the Pan Pacific Hotel. This session will focus on the following question: In a fast-moving international economy where knowledge is king, how can British Columbia successfully adapt and innovate to carve out a prosperous and sustainable future built on innovation, education, training and fully leveraging the value of human capital in a global economy?

The Web of Change annual retreat is taking place over on Cortes Island from the 23rd through to the Web of Change27th. Web of Change, which consistently sells out, is an event which connects senior leaders with a deep commitment to the social change movement.

Another Vancouver event beginning on the 23rd is CMOS Emerging Technologies, which takes place at SFU Harbour Centre through to September 25th. Art Institute of VancouverOn Thursday evening, we will be attending the Art Institute of Vancouver’s Grad Presentation Night, where we’ll be getting a look at the latest in student projects. We’re looking forward to meeting another round of talented young people as well as visiting AI’s new campus on Renfrew in Vancouver.

The Connect Conference and Click Trade Show 2009 at Niagara-on-the-Lake is in full swing on day two of it three day event. Tomorrow is a workshop focusing on Entertainment, Media, and Communications: New Media: The Emerging Landscape taking place in Toronto. Meanwhile, on September 24th students and prospective students can learn more about the world of game development with the Interactive Onatrio seminar Go Into Games With Big Blue Bubble taking place at Fanshawe College. There will be a similar seminar over at the University of Toronto on September 29th with Go Into Games With Koei Canada. The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario presents their Creative Business Summit on September 24th in Toronto

Hot on the heels of a very successful Spark Animation Festival, Vancouver’s hardworking SIGGRAPH chapter has opened ticket sales for Aliens Among Us: The Visual Effects of District 9. This speaker session will feature key staff members from the team at Image Engine, who contributed Siggraph Vancouverover 300 visual effects shots including digital aliens to Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut District 9.

On-set VFX Supervisor & Digital Production Manager Peter Muyzers will be moderating this post-mortem discussion with input from Shawn Walsh – VFX Executive Producer, James Stewart – Creature Supervisor, Jon Cowley – VFX Seq. Supervisor and Tim Belsher – CG Supervisor. Aliens Among Us takes place on UBCTuesday September 29th at the Empire Theatre. Tickets are on sale now.

UBC Sauder has an excellent offering of seminars and continuing education sessions coming up, including Strategies, Skills and Tactics of Negotiations, Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers, Strategic Sales LeadershipOutlook: Getting Out of the Inbox and Software Architecture and Iterative Development Process: Managing Risk through Better Architecture.

digital albertaTomorrow night Digital Alberta is presenting a Summer After Burner event, Social Media and Consumers: Next 500 Days. Join Digital Alberta’s panel of experts to learn how consumers will be using Social Media in the next 500 days. The panel will be moderated by Norman Leach and will be comprised of Manoj Jasra, Lynda Brown, Douglas Walker and Roger Kondrat.

Business In Vancouver presents Investment in Innovation – Investing in Smart Tools For Your Business on September 24 at SFU Segal Graduate School of Business while WaveFront is presenting their WaveGuide Seminar on Mobile UI Design – User Centered Design and UI Best Practices over at the Guinness Tower Conference Centre. The New Ventures BC Awards Ceremony takes place at the SFU Segal Graduate School of Business on September 24th and is hosted by New Ventures BC.  The BCTIA is presenting the next session in their C-Suite series – Behind Your Financing Options on September 29th at the Segal Graduate School of Business.

Also of importance this month are the Focus Group Consultations which are taking place across the country. The Canada Television Fund is on the road looking for industry input. Their schedule for the remainder of this month is as follows:

September 21: Halifax
September 22: Fredericton
September 23: Charlottetown
September 24: St. John’s
September 25: Iqaluit
September 28: Calgary
September 29: Vancouver
September 30: Vancouver (Aboriginal Focus Group)

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21st September 2009

A New Level of Chaos Comes to Dawn of War 2

Relic EntertainmentVancouver – THQ and Relic Entertainment have released details about Warhammer® 40,000™: Dawn of War® II – Chaos Rising™, the next standalone chapter in the critically acclaimed Real-Time Strategy series, is scheduled for release on Games For Windows-LIVE in spring 2010.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Chaos Rising features a new playable army, the traitorous Chaos Space Marines, and continues the epic journey of the Blood Ravens as they battle this new, more personal enemy. Chaos Rising offers new single-player and co-op campaigns, a level cap increase from 20 to 30, Chaos Risingmore powerful war-gear and a suite of innovative multiplayer options.

“Dawn of War II took intimate brutality to another level and introduced RPG-RTS hybrid gameplay,” said Jonathan Dowdeswell, general manager, Relic Entertainment. “The epic struggle between Space Marines and the forces of Chaos lets us take those two game-play elements and create an even more intense experience – this time, the battle is personal.”

Set in the grim, war-ravaged world of Games Workshop’s vast Warhammer 40,000 science fiction universe, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Chaos Rising transports players into the midst of an intergalactic war between ancient enemies. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Chaos Rising introduces the Chaos Space Marines as a new playable army, continuing the single player campaign from the original Dawn of War II.

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19th September 2009

Vortex Competition 2009 Open For Business

Vortex CompetitionToronto – Presented by McLuhan Festival of the Future, The Vortex Competition is a “Dragon’s Den” styled game development event now in its fifth year. Registrants first attend a two day Vortex Boot Camp where they participate in panels and discussions “specifically designed for emerging entrepreneurs in the game industry to provide information and guidance to make their product ready for and a success in the market place.” Once the boot camp is done, participants are given an additional fifteen days to develop their game concepts and submit them for evaluation.

Important dates for the competition:

October 5: Deadline for Boot Camp Registration
October 7 and 8: Boot Camp & Networking Reception
October 23: Deadline for Competition Submissions
October 29: Announcement of Contenders
November 4 – 5: Competition & Awards Gala

Registration fees for the Vortex Boot Camp are as follows:

Boot Camp & Competition – $100.00 (Full Pass – includes Camp, Competition, Reception & Gala)
Boot Camp Registration (No Competition Entry) – $85.00 (includes Reception)
Team Boot Camp & Competition Registration – $85.00 (per team member & is a Full Pass to all events)
Boot Camp Reception & Competition Awards Gala Tickets – $ 60.00
Vortex Webcast Registration – $30.00 (watch the Camp & Competition via internet)

For those who may not be able to afford to enter the competition, the organizers are offering a limited number of scholarships to individuals or companies who meet their criteria. The number of scholarships is limited and will be evaluated on a first come, first served basis. Please submit a statement which outlines the details about you and your team, as well as a description of your project, what you believe you will gain for the Boot Camp and the Competition, and why you should be offered this scholarship.

Speakers for the 2009 Boot Camp are:

Ian Buck – High Road Communications Inc
Vikas Gupta – President & CEO, TransGaming Inc.
Andrea Sheffer – Executive Director, Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund
Blake Lewin – VP, Media and Entertainment Platforms at Turner Broadcasting
Peter Williams – Head of US Business Unit & Chief Strategic Officer, Bamboo Networks (Keynote)
David Woolford – Business Law Partner, Miller Thomson
Rob Sands – Owner, RGS Media

The chosen competitors will then enter one of two tracks – either Prototype or Concept and make their presentations to the jury panel. The presentation will last for ten minutes, followed by twenty minutes of discussion and review with the panel. Two semi-finalists from each category will be chosen. On day two of the judging competition, the four semi-finalists will make ten minute presentations to the panel. The declared winner of the Vortex Competition and will be given their prizes at the Awards Ceremony with Gala to follow. The competition’s organizers are excited to be able to offer this year’s winners mentoring by established industry executives tailored to their needs in addition to cash and other prizes as well as the opportunity to have their games commercialized through a variety of channels.

Jury Panel for the 2009 Vortex Competition:

Yannis Mallat – CEO, Ubisoft Montreal & Ubisoft Toronto
Kevin O’Leary – CBC’s Dragon’s Den
Rita Davies – Executive Director of the Culture Division of the City of Toronto
Mark Montgomery – Product Development Manager, Games & Applications for Telus
Mark Saltzman – Freelance journalist, author, lecturer, consultant, radio and TV personality

Vortex Competition entrants are also encouraged to submit their game concepts to the City of Toronto’s Game Competition, which is being held in to commemorate the city’s 175th birthday. According to the Vortex Competition’s web site, “the City of Toronto is proud to offer all competitors the opportunity to enter their game in a 175th City of Toronto Birthday Videogame Competition. The winning game will be accessible via the City of Toronto’s website which will garner the winner international exposure.” A search of Toronto’s birthday events page did not offer any further information.

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18th September 2009

IUGO Confirms New Titles and Takes On Tokyo

IUGOVancouver – This time last year the iPhone was barely a blip on the screen in the cell-phone-center-of-the-universe metropolis of Tokyo. This year has marked the coming of the iPhone to Japan, prompting IUGO Mobile Entertainment to revisit the Tokyo Game Show this September 24 – 27th as part of the Canadian Pavilion.

“We were taken aback by all of the articles popping up about how the iPhone 3GS was a top seller in Japan Toy Bot Missionsin the past couple of months,” remarks Sarah Thomson, Director of Business Development for IUGO. “That is a big difference from last year. Also, we are embarking on new mobile platforms with our original IP such as the PSP Go and the BlackBerry. These could give us more traction in Asian regions.”

Thomson notes IUGO’s hit iPhone titles such as Star Hogs and a sequel to their best-selling Zombie Attack! will be debuting onto these new platforms. “We also have other titles coming out at the end of 2009, beginning of 2010 that will be multi-platform games. Since we have been able to prove success with our own brands on the iPhone, we are now expanding out onto other platforms to truly reach the masses.”

Toy Bot MissionsTwo games which will be making the trek to Tokyo are the recently announced Cliffed and today’s announced title, Toy Bot Missions. We anticipate that both of these titles will meet the high quality of game play, graphics and style that we have come to expect from IUGO, and we are looking forward to their release.

In Toy Bot Missions, gamers will enter the wondrous Toy Bot universe bursting with all of our favorite Toy Bot characters! Jam packed with mini puzzles and challenges, players will duck and jump their way through lasers, spinning platforms, projectiles and more.

Toy Bot Missions, which promises hours of game play, features:Cliffed

• 100 mini games in total
• 12 characters to unlock and play with in total (Toy Bot shown in screenshots, many more to pick from!)
• Great for short bursts of play as well as long gaming sessions
• Local and global leaderboards
• IUGO’s new VIP program: Tell your friends, access more characters sooner!
• Your favorite 2D Toy Bot friends and new buddies in the Toy Bot universe!

IUGO recently announced that another new title is slated for release this fall. Cliffed will allow gamers to challenge their friends to a race to the bottom – of the cliff, we presume – on both the iPhone and Blackberry. IUGO has released a few screenshots from this new 2D side-scrolling title, which offers the following features:

Cliffed• 10 unique and playful characters to choose from
• Pick up and play! Great for all ages
• Endless game play
• Online multiplayer! Race up to 8 players in real time over 3G and wireless networks
• Local and global leaderboards
• IUGO’s new VIP program: Tell your friends, earn points and unlock an exclusive mystery character sooner
• Stylized, clean graphics

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18th September 2009

Digital Extremes Part of the BioShock 2 Development Team

Digital Extremes2K Games has announced that BioShock® 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2007 Game of the Year, will be available worldwide beginning February 9, 2010 and is now available for pre-order at participating retailers.

Currently in collaborative development at 2K Marin, 2K Australia, Digital Extremes and 2KBioShock 2 China for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and Games for Windows® LIVE, BioShock 2 will deliver two unique, yet intertwined experiences that form the perfect blend of explosive first-person shooter combat, compelling storytelling and intense multiplayer action.

Set approximately 10 years after the events of the original BioShock, the halls of Rapture once again echo with sins of the past. Along the Atlantic coastline, a monster has been snatching little girls and bringing them back to the undersea city of Rapture. Players step into the boots of the most iconic denizen of Rapture, the Big Daddy, as they travel through the decrepit and beautiful fallen city, chasing an unseen foe in search of answers and their own survival.

Multiplayer in BioShock 2 will provide a rich prequel experience that expands the origins of the BioShock fiction. Set during the fall of Rapture, players assume the role of a Plasmid test subject for Sinclair Solutions, a premier provider of Plasmids and Tonics in the underwater city of Rapture that was first explored in the original BioShock. Players will need to use all the elements of the BioShock toolset to survive, as the full depth of the BioShock experience is refined and transformed into a unique multiplayer experience that can only be found in Rapture.

BioShock 2 is not yet rated by the ESRB.

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17th September 2009

nGen Plans Growth With New Grants

nGenSt. Catharines – MP Rick Dykstra is thrilled to announce that nGen, Niagara Interactive Media Generator, will receive over $3 million from the Federal government’s Community Adjustment Fund.

The Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) is part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Government of Canada’s strategy to ensure a quick recovery from the current economic downturn. ByEconomic Action Plan focusing on the creation of short-term employment to support communities and the sectors that contribute to their viability, CAF will play a distinctive role in relation to other economic stimulus measures included in Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

“This strategic investment is further proof of our government’s commitment to helping St. Catharines adjust to the economic realities of our time,” said Dykstra. “This money will help nGen continue to attract and retain much needed new media enterprises to our community, creating new jobs and supporting the growth of a knowledge-based economy for Niagara.”

The funds received will be allocated toward the much needed expansion of nGen, which would further capitalize on the expansion of the industry, making St. Catharines and Niagara an even more dominant player in the sector of digital interactive media. Since nGen’s inception, its programs have rapidly exceeded capacity and the initiative has now found itself in need of expansion in order to meet the needs of its emerging cluster. Through increased incubation and access to new technologies, nGen will be able to strengthen its sustainability as a hub for digital interactive media development in the St.Catharines and the Niagara Region. This is the vision of the Niagara Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) Strategic Business Plan and the St. Catharines-Thorold Prosperity Council’s Paths to Prosperity Report, to define new media as a pillar for economic growth and expansion in Niagara.

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17th September 2009

Madballs In Babo Invasion Now Available on Steam

playbrainsOttawaPlaybrains, an independent game development studio specializing in the digital download arena, are proud to announce that the PC version of Madballs in…Babo:Invasion (MiBI) has released today via the Steam digital download service for $9.99.Madballs In Babo Invasion

The spiritual successor to the massively popular freeware top-down Shooter BaboViolent2, Madballs in Babo:Invasion is an arena based 3D shooter offering players a satisfying and immersive experience in both single-player and multiplayer, including ‘Invasion Mode’ where players are able to design their own combat maps almost instantaneously by placing a combination of map tiles to create a never-before-seen map before gameplay starts. Truly, no two games are ever the same.Madballs In Babo Invasion

Featuring the recently re-released Madballs™ characters, Oculus Orbus™ and Horn Head™, from the popular 1980’s toys best remembered for their outrageously bad looks and graphically colourful names, Madballs in…Babo: Invasion is a gameplay rich, feature laden ‘casually hardcore’ action shooter which is also that rarest of gaming commodities; a genuinely unique title.

Some of the outstanding review scores and quotes lavished upon the recent Xbox LIVE Arcade release:

“…an impressive title for the XBLA system.” Team Xbox.com – 8/10
“Surprisingly slick with excellent online play.” UK Official Xbox Magazine – 8/10
“…Madballs in…Babo: Invasion is both a pleasing nostalgia trip and a surprisingly deep arcade shooter.” Computer & Videogames.com – 8/10
“…Madballs fully deserves a place among the finer titles on XBLA.” EDGE Magazine – 7/10

Key Features

• Single Player – Hours of repeatable gameplay through 10 epic levelsMadballs
• 2-4 Player Online Co-op – challenge individual campaign levels with your friends or play the whole campaign in ‘Enduro’ mode
• 16 Player Multiplayer – 21 maps to match all game sizes
• ‘Invasion’ Mode – the signature mode of the game, players take turns placing map tiles to create a unique multiplayer map prior to each match
• Classes – 10 character classes (each with 2 special abilities) over two warring factions, with each faction having 5 unique weapons each with two distinct firing modes
• Madballs Characters – Oculus Orbus™ and Horn Head™ from the infamous 80’s toy craze as in-game characters
• 5 Archetypes – Assault, Heavy, Runner, Flyer, Support
• Deployables – active (rocket turrets) or passive (healing towers) can be placed in Invasion mode
• Unlocks and Secrets – 50 unlocks and 50 Secrets to find during campaign gameplay
• Action – emphasis on fast-paced, visceral action that is easy to pick and play, yet offers a real strategic challenge for hardcore gamers

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16th September 2009

Spark Animation Starts Tonight

Siggraph VancouverVancouverSpark Animation Festival, presented by our local ACM SIGGRAPH chapter opens tonight with an industry mixer plus screenings of The Secret of Kells followed by Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest. Tickets are still available for several speaker sessions which run from Thursday to Saturday, however The Making of 9 with Kevin Adams & Matthew Teevan, Shooting Up: A Trip through the Camera Structure of Up with Patrick Lin and Character Design with Ricky Nierva are all sold out. There may be a few rush tickets available for each of these three sessions, but I would advise getting your tickets now for any other speaker sessions you’ve been considering attending. Online sales for this evening’s screenings are closed, so you will need to purchase tickets at Spark Animation, which is being held at the VanCity Theatre. Tickets for individual speaker sessions are $15.00 each for members and $20.00 for non-members, while film screenings are $10.00 and $8.00 respectively.

As always, events of this type would be impossible to present without the assistance of volunteers and sponsors. The sponsors for Spark Animation 2009 are:

BC Innovation Council, BC Film, Vancouver Economic Development, AnnexPro, Club Penguin, nvidia, Rainmaker, Propaganda Games, Davis LLP, Pixar, 3Vis and Association Friends include Women In Games Vancouver, Casual Games Association, Visual Effects Association of BC, Society of Graphic Designers Canada – BC Chapter .

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15th September 2009

Volume Two of Dragon Age Novel Set Coming In October

BioWareEdmontonBioWare™ and Tor Books, the largest publisher of science fiction in the world, today announced the publication of Dragon Age™: The Calling, a new novel set in the world of Dragon Age™: Origins, BioWare’s highly anticipated dark epic video game releasing this November. Veteran video game developer and Dragon Age: Origins lead writer, David Dragon Age: The Stolen ThroneGaider, follows up his debut novel, Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, with a thrilling new adventure set in the dark and epic fantasy universe of Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age: The Calling is scheduled to release on October 13, 2009, for $14.99.

In Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, Maric set out on a mission of vengeance against the faithless lords who were responsible for his mother’s death. Now, having reclaimed the throne, King Maric finally allows the legendary Grey Wardens to return to Ferelden after two hundred years of exile. When they come, however, they bring dire news: one of their own has escaped into the Deep Roads and aligned himself with their ancient enemy, the monstrous darkspawn. The Grey Wardens need Maric’s help to find him. He reluctantly agrees to lead them into the passages he traveled through years before, chasing after a deadly secret that will threaten to destroy not only the Grey Wardens, but also the Kingdom above.

The team at BioWare has created a fantasy world on a scale unprecedented in the world of games —filled with compelling characters, gripping storylines, and hidden terrors. Dragon Age: The Calling is a rich, sweeping epic that will captivate avid fantasy readers and gamers just weeks before the launch of one of the most highly-anticipated fantasy RPGs ever.

In Dragon Age: Origins, players take on the role of a Grey Warden, one of the last of an ancient order of guardians who have served as protectors throughout the centuries. Only they have the power to unite the shattered lands, defeat the Archdemon and drive back the darkspawn that threaten to destroy the world. Players will interact with many interesting characters who may join them in their quest, and they will choose whether these characters become friends, foes, or even a romantic interest. Featuring a deep and compelling story where every choice can have a dramatic impact on the game, Dragon Age: Origins is scheduled to release on November 3, 2009 in North America and November 6, 2009 in Europe for the PC and Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system and later in November for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system. Dragon Age: Origins is rated M by the ESRB.

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