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The best MMO April Fools

Blizzard wins. Again.

There isn't much in the way of fresh MMO news this morning, because the world of massively multiplayer gaming spent most of yesterday trying to outdo itself - and every other section of the gaming industry - in an orgy of funny fakery. And we have to say it did rather well.

Top of the heap, as ever, was World of Warcraft developer Blizzard, which brought its usual levels of polish, professionalism and money to three beautifully-crafted spoofs. Our favourite was the unveiling of a new (guitar) Hero Class for WOW: the Bard. But honourable mentions also go to the slick trailer for an 8-bit console version of WOW's raid dungeon, Molten Core ("HAS SOUND!"), and the incongruous introduction of the WOW's Taurens to StarCraft II. The latter isn't that funny, but the actual in-game models and gameplay footage defy belief. Some people just have more money than sense.

Elsewhere Lord of the Rings Online debuted a new content update, The Battle of Amon Hen, featuring a new chicken race with its own epic quest arc: Crossing the Road. Developers Turbine also mocked EA with the Pimp My Warforged addition to Dungeons & Dragons Online. ("New Skills: Fly: All other players want to be like you.")

Codemasters stablemate, the forthcoming Jumpgate: Evolution, announced that its developer would be changing its name from NetDevil to NetAngel to reinforce its commitment to making "socially responsible" MMOs. MMORPG.com added a witty rejoinder: the conservative American Standards Senate had requested the game's name be changed to Jumpgate: Creationism.

Superhero MMO City of Heroes emphasised its comic-book heritage with the announcement of visual sounds. "A lot of people are building their own computers nowadays, and sometimes you forget to purchase speakers or headphones," commented producer Brian Clayton. "Our market is those gamers who want a full gaming experience without having to listen to the game."

Flagship announced it would bring its Hellgate IP to a new audience with Hellgate: Barbie merchandising, but blew it by admitting it was an April Fool and begging Mattel not to sue them at the end. Never apologise, never explain, Flagship.

In a similar vein, NCsoft's freebie MMO Dungeon Runners announced its Pony Adventure expansion pack, but we preferred the NCLottery, because it's actually quite a smart parody of free-to-play economics, and because we guarantee that someone, somewhere will actually have this feature up and running in a game before the year is out. Probably Dave Perry.

Top marks for sheer guts, however, must go to ArenaNet, of Guild Wars fame. They topped last year's in-game prank of switching every player's gender by turning the entire game's population into identical stick men. Visit Massively for a screenshot, and ponder the depth and daring of this challenge to MMO players' identification with their avatars. Or have a laugh at their expense: your call.