Friday, October 30, 2009

Cryptic’s Star Trek

First, let’s do the easy bit. To apply for the Star Trek Online closed beta please visit this link. If you get in, remember who sent you and beat up a dev to get me in. Closed beta started October 22nd and Star Trek Online is slated for a first quarter 2010 release. Amazon pre-order link is somewhere below.

So. Star Trek. I was raised on Star Trek. Oh there were other shows, there was Doctor Who ingrained so deeply in my mind that I sleepwalked (slept walked?) to the source of the theme music once. There was Space 1999, Blake’s 7, UFO, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. British 70s sci-fi, American sci-fi it didn’t matter. I was born and raised a geek. I love newer stuff. Stargate, Farscape, Odyssey 5, Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 all are huge to me. Star Trek though… despite the rubbish first three seasons per show, despite the ending of Enterprise or even worse, the Warp 10 episode (disowned from Canon) and despite what people may say about the latest movie, I love Star Trek. Shannon too is a life long Trekkie and we’ve both said to one another that love it or loathe it, we’re honour bound to at least trial Star Trek when it gets to Open Beta/Release (Though Cryptic, I can totally be bought by two closed beta keys if you want me to be nicer). With my geek cred established needlessly let’s get onto the real reason for this post.

KHHHHHHAAAAAAANNNNNNYYYYPPPPTTTIIIIIICCCC. (Why does the spell checker have no problem with that but dislikes “cred”?)

Let’s start with a previous blog entry, The Cryptic Model. I suggested that if “polish” is the watchword of Blizzard, then “custom” is that of Cryptic. Look at what they’ve done to date. I think people have died due to the amount of time they spent in the character creator (Joke, seriously). So far Cryptic has offered up two perks for Star Trek and like any good little nit picking fan boy I have an issue with both. First we have the perk given to the Lifetime subscribers of Champions Online, the mirror universe uniform. That makes no sense. Allow me to explain/Shut up and listen. The Terran Empire as seen in the first Mirror Universe episode, the one that established that evil twins have goatees and thus goateed people are evil, collapsed shortly after Kirk got his Kirk on. By the time of DS9 Earth and such had gone from almighty warmongering empire to a slave race to the Bajorans, Cardassians and Klingons. By the time of STO (some 20/30 years after Nemesis) the idea of wearing a Kirk era alternate universe evil empires outfit? Yeah I’m going to go and put a big fan boy NO on that. The second perk is even more unforgivable. Pre Order From Amazon and get a Borg Bridge officer. If I have to explain why that is wrong you never really got the Borg did you? This isn’t a Seven of Nine type issue where it’s a recently saved human (and generally getting de-borged is reserved for main cast) who happens to have some implants and such. No they are saying here have a Borg. I could come up with methods to justify that, like the individual “Hugh” Borg Lore was hanging out with or the Borg from Unity. In any event, despite any justification, you’d imagine they’d be a rarity as opposed to every Tom, Dick and Harry Kim who pre-orders.

Moving onwards we have further complaints. We’ll swing the bat at Cryptic first and then back to the game. Star Trek Online is being based on the Champions engine. Sure this means that development time has been cut, they already have the engine and tools and whatnot. Star Trek thus will be out in the first part of 2010. February if Amazon is to be believed. That seems rushed to me, terribly so. Further to my complaints, I foresee the C-Store making an appearance in Star Trek. I’ll have to wait and see to complain properly about that one.

At this point in the entry I was geared up for further bile and ranting. However I think I will leave it here for now and save that for another day. Suffice to say, the ship list does not please the Ardy. Instead I will end with one or two positives.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the view of the Klingons being presented, I admit that it is a good move to have an iconic pvp based race. Klingons love to fight and it can even be another Klingon. Also the progression and some of the ships interest me. Still, with the game only going into beta, a lot can change. Let’s hope the needs of the many are satisfied by what Cryptic is attempting.

Champions Online Free Weekend

With the rising of the Blood Moon, Champions is offering a Blood Moon Weekend to give people two days to try out the game and the Halloween Event.

Terry was right in the comments recently, I have been more full of hatedom than usual. You know, I gripe because I am interested. I never was one of the CoH players or pen and paper RPG players who on hearing of Champions squeed my pants off. Personally I didn’t get it and to a degree I still don’t.

However I have told a few people (though I may have neglected to blog it, so here you are) that I always thought I could have fun in Champions. I loved the look of the Force set. I thought tunnelling was cute. I’m going to try make the Robo-Buddy. All these things hold true despite complaints about the store, complaints about the game at large or anything else.

I’m going to be patching up (provided it isn’t an insanely huge patch) and creating a few characters. As Syp pointed a while back, saving the costume you make is a good move as it saves everything and makes for easy loading at a later date. I don’t think I ever will pick up Champions full time because there’s just other things out there that I want to play and the people I enjoy playing with aren’t jumping ship entirely just yet. Even so, if you’re free this weekend feel free to poke me on my Twitter or in Champions. @Ardua or

That all said, I stand by my fan boyish Trekkie based nerdrage. Cryptic gets a blasting for Star Trek Online later on. Nitpicks incoming!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

C(ash cow)-Store

Sorry for the delay folks. Blame The SCP Foundation for my absence lately. I just can’t get enough of it.

Anyway as I am sure almost everyone knows, the Champions Online C-Store is now live. In it you can get such things as a complete Character Retcon (1000pts), Four additional Character slots (1200pts), Additional costume slots (400pts per two slots), Character Rename (280pts) then various emblems, outfits, vanity pets and so on.

Now those Cryptic points are roughly similar to Turbine Points. We’ll come back to that. The current exchange rate (as though to imply it can be changed later) Cryptic Points stands as shown here. It is at this point that I must point out quite clearly to one and all that City Of Heroes also has micro transactions.

City of Heroes lets you buy

  • Character slots for a server up to a maximum of 36 slots on one server (1, 2 or 5 at iirc $5, $10 and $20)
  • Server Transfers
  • Respecs
  • Character Rename
  • Super Boosters

The Super Boosters are $10 each and you have such varied ones as the Good Vs Evil item pack (from the GvE edition of the game), Wedding Pack, Mac Item Pack, Cyborg Booster, Magic Booster and Super Science booster. Of all of them, only the Wedding pack is entirely cosmetic, with new outfits and emotes. The last three bring outfit pieces, emotes and powers. Good Vs Evil and Mac Pack have costumes and a new power.

Basically $10 buys you a fair bit of kit in CoH. Shannon wants me to get the Magic pack when I can because she adores one of the coats in it and I have to admit, the Fortune power is very handy to have but by no means game breaking. I personally have been eyeing up the Mac Pack, not for the mission teleporter power but the Valkyrie armour which looks gorgeous. Despite there being costume sets to buy and emotes only available to those who have shelled out cash the booster packs are perfectly acceptable to me for two reasons. Firstly (and I wish I had the time to ferret out a link to source the assertion) the Wedding pack sales directly accelerated work on the issue that followed it thanks to the cash injection. Hey, they give us fun stuff that we may want but don’t need and if it gives them a leg up? What’s not to love? Secondly, there are new pieces added to the game constantly. There are more temp powers than I’ve ever had knocking around the game. I may not be able to juggle electricity or drink a super serum for a costume change, but I eventually got my own costume change emotes.

$10 in CO doesn’t buy you anything. You have to purchase in increments. So the nearest band is $12.50 which gets you 1000 points and that’s just enough for a full RetCon in Champions. $12.50 to rebuild your character. City of Heroes also has Respecs for sale. Respecs in City of Heroes let you repick every power from your primary and secondary from the first level, entirely changing the pools you may have had and also are a handy way to sell off or remove enhancements and slotting that you may want elsewhere. You cannot, unlike the RetCon, change your primary and secondary. However as I write this I have 51 months worth of Veteran badges and Issue 16 recently launched. I personally tend not to respec and five years on from launch massive sudden nerfs to powers in CoH are rare. As a result I have Four veteran respecs (9 months, 21, 33 and 45 months), one new issue “freespec” and on most of my characters I have my three possible reward respecs from the trial. The trial takes about two hours and at the end, wahey respec and badge. If for some reason I managed to burn through those 8, I still do not have to shell out cash, there are Respec recipes on the in game market (though they cost a pretty penny).

Slots are also an issue. Four more character slots in Champions (to bring you to a total of 12) costs $18.75 (1500 pts) if you buy the two smaller instalments or $25 (2000pts) if you want to buy a few more things. Five slots in City of Heroes is $20 and you get a new character slot for every 12 months you’ve played the game, on top of the 12 you already had from City of Heroes (originally it launched with 8 but 12 became the standard after CoV) and the two they gave out if you were around for the launch of slots. You can on a single server in City of Heroes have 36 slots. Sure Champions is brand new and sure it doesn’t have servers, relying instead on the instances system but … it’s not like Cryptic didn’t know that hero games breed altwhores. It’s not like they didn’t give out Freespecs in CoH or didn’t have an easy and enjoyable respec system. Sure I suppose the ability to have a full retcon, rebuilding your character from the ground up and having entirely different powers, shouldn’t be cheap or easy. There’s a difference though between “not cheap and easy” and “screw the customer for cash”.

As people will continue to compare the two games (me especially) keep in mind that Cryptic did make them both. Champions should have been City of Heroes Mk 2.Awesome. They had the time and experience with CoH to show them what did and did not work, what does and does not piss off the fan base and finally how to have fans hand over cash with a grin. I’ve never heard anyone bemoan “having” to buy a super booster. Heck if you decide to play City of Heroes, buy the Architect edition, you get a free super booster with it. Right now Champions is punishing its players and the pricing is insulting in some cases and idiotic in others. Really though, it’s just retail. You’ll almost always have points left over and they’ll tease you with more bits and pieces. You’ll always need to buy just a few more to fit everything if you don’t shell out more than you need initially.

Though for the close we’ll go back to the Turbine Points like I promised. I played some DDO with Sareini over the weekend and I earned my first Turbine points which when I have enough I can use instead of cash to buy anything in the DDO store. Now obviously I know it’ll be a grind if I want anything in particular. The cash option is just the faster, easier but ultimately costly option. If I want it NAO I pay money. Champions to my recollection is supposed to have the same system. However Sareini tells me that there are to her knowledge at the moment no missions in the game that reward C-Points because well… it’s broken. Also Cryptics Daeke had this to say.

I agree with Syp in that CO really shouldn’t be charging for costumes and such when they haven’t yet surpassed their only competitor. If nothing else, charging money for Halloween outfits before Halloween? Whose bright idea was that?

Two notes I'm adding after the fact. First I will put in ParagonWiki links for people soon. Second, while I want clarification on the extra costume slot item in the C-store, it is the one thing Shannon would kill for in CoH

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

STO Placeholder

This is a post I've joked about a few times to friends.

I'm going on record as disliking Star Trek Online, the direction Cryptic are taking, the information released and pretty much most of everything I hear about it.

Placeheld so I can refer to it later and either laugh at myself for my misguided nature (yeah right) or more likely point and prove I was on the hatewagon first :P

Cryptic? You just go and bugger off.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

WTS: 1 Ardy Soul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve never played a Blizzard or Bioware game. I’ve watched my brother play countless hours of Mass Effect, KOTOR and KOTOR II. He plays WoW. In fact most people I know online either have played WoW, are playing WoW or will at some point.

As far as my gaming calendar goes, there’s City of Heroes next weekend to such a degree I’ll probably be sick of it next monday. There’s Left 4 Dead and if I get the money, a pre-order of Left 4 Dead 2. I’d love to dabble in Aion and have every intention of getting Shannon to test Champions Online just for my own grim amusement.

However Christmas is coming and with it, holidays. I’ll have time to indulge various bits and David (the brother) does keep offering me World of Warcraft. So question to everyone.

Is the never ending draw of Warcraft based in how it is as an MMO or due to fond memories of Warcraft I-III being translated to the big screen as it were? I understand some of the lore but none of the draw. Am I too changed by the games I have played to enjoy WoW or will it be me selling my soul?

So, Ardy play? Y/N.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Possibly The Worst Idea

My wee mention of Left 4 Dead put me to thinking about things. Of course the thoughts aren’t terribly original but hey Echoes here.

Kyle Horner of Massively put digital pen to paper in March and offered up the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse MMO. Earlier still he mused on a Survival Horror game.

While collecting links for this post, I remembered where Syp talked about permadeath. Permadeath as he points out is a polarising thing. You either hate it or embrace it and rarely fall on either side. Unsurprising really given that a quick look at game wikis proves character death is cheap. In Champions, you take a hit to your effectiveness. In City of Heroes, technological wonders rebuild you on a molecular level as you fall, avoiding all the issues of death (probably also explaining why you can “arrest” with a broadsword to the neck). Aion, you’re immortal. Warhammer, you’re too busy to die. Warcraft, death is helpful if you want to get all the quests. There are so many ways of sidestepping the Reaper explained away by the fluff of the game, usually in the tutorial to boot, that is causes fights when applied to NPCs. Ask people about if Heroes kill or not in the Champions Online or City of Heroes role-playing forums and be ready for a firestorm.

Permadeath is based on a very basic premise though, one that exists in many games and I think could be applied well in MMOs (or it’s a horrible idea as the title of this suggests), specifically the idea that supplies are limited. There is only one of you. There are only so many resurrections available. There is no healer or mediport or other Applied Phlebotinum around to get you on your feet.

So if in fact supplies are limited, shouldn’t that apply across the game world? The Left 4 Dead example, and the idea of the post, is this. You have X amount of ammo, Y amount of friends and Z options. You need to get from A to B and there may not be a handy drop of medical supplies or pills or ammo or anything along the way. You could face hordes of mooks or a handful of specialised problems. Part of the tension comes in the fight, another part comes in the debate. Do I use my pills now or do I wait? Can I afford to unload my weapon like a madman into that mob or should I get my (unlimited) pistol? Will I survive just a little longer, saving that precious med pack for when we really need it?

In a post apocalyptic world or survival game world, supplies should be limited. Give people the ability to patch up friends into walking wounded, give people a weapon they can always use but isn’t exactly going to rock anyone's socks. Give them the tension that comes of the choices, to use what little they have now or try to hold on a little longer.

Like in Kyle's example, the best supplies and remaining scant resources are in the danger zone. You’re not. Maybe such a game would have permadeath, maybe not. Either way there would only be so many people with so much stuff and you’d have to work out how to survive on that. Logistics and tactics become paramount.

Bonus ideas

Two MMO settings where supplies are precious and choices hard. First, Sci-fi setting where humanity (or for extra points humanity are the invaders and you play something else) is on the run from an invading force. Until such time as the story allows it, it would be a game of rearguard actions and ever increasing pressure put on the survivors and their stockpiles. Escape, abandon other guilds to die, try to fight the good fight. Whatever you do, you’ve a game where people need to work together to win, otherwise they die piecemeal.

Second setting, easy one this, Post Epitaph One-Dollhouse verse. The world is clearly in tatters and people have all sorts of dangers rallied against them. Make the escape from a large city a very very long tutorial where you either learn what you need to work with people in refuge or you suffer a fate worse than death. Extra points if the game doesn’t include permadeath in a traditional way and instead offers you the chance to override a Doll. Do you take that option and take someone's body? Or do you do the honourable thing and go out shooting?


Either way the idea of limiting supplies could be awful, the one wonderful part of it is it has brought me that much closer to lunchtime. Really really awful. I remember reading about old school Everquest and guilds camping dungeons that they wanted to run. Do you think the world is ready for the ultimate co-op game? Not just an MMO but one where you really do have to shape up yourself as well as work well with others. Then again given the boards of many online games, do you really want to rely on those people for your continued survival? Would you play a game where every med pack is precious and if you don’t join the guys guarding the pharmacy, you may never see another?

I suppose in the end, supplies are limited. People will be patient with current game designs for only so long, many already have lost their patience. I guess my final question is this, would you play in a world where, in the big picture, your side has already lost? All you can do is survive and hope to turn the tide someday.

In The Name Of The Healer..

And the Tank and the Holy DPS did you see how I pwned that mob?!?

That’s right, the holy trinity. The three body system that has the person soaking the damage and keeping aggro, the person keeping everyone up and running and the person who dishes out the hurt. I’m told the Holy Trinity is boring and old fashioned and in need of a shake up. Personally, I’ve not had much experience with it. Even in games that have it, I’ve a tendency to go off and do whatever amused me rather than what I am good at or “meant” for.

The Trinity is being discussed on the Epic Slant Forums but this post is inspired by Luigrein over at Rainbow MMO. He was talking about City of Heroes and how just because your class is a tank, that doesn’t mean levelling one means you know them all. (By the way, I didn’t see your global for ages mate, I’ll tend to that tonight)

I am in total agreement with that. Last night I just got my tenth level 50 character in City of Heroes, this time my Warshade Kashlar. So as of writing this I have a max level on 6 of the 7 Hero ATs and 3 of the 7 Villain ATs. That doesn’t mean I have played everything, even in the ATs that I have supposedly finished. My friend Sephorus for the longest time had a Fire/Fire tank that he insisted was a scrapper with the wrong AT icon. Dinging 50, I was on an Imperious Task Force. We had no dedicated healer and precious little in the way of pure dps. What we did have was a lot of people who played well and had enough utility to carry the day (also lots of control). I have heard of all Kheldian taskforces, all Blaster taskforces, all Defender (broken and wrong:P) taskforces and so on and so forth. The Trinity can be undone through one word. Utility.

I think the hard part is though not everyone wants it gone. Personally I think I might enjoy some time making the healiest healer I can, or tankiest tanker. I might like my niche and I want to be able to indulge that desire wherever I play. Designers though are the ones who you have to convince and I know how.

Get the developers of all the games you love and have a massive Left 4 Dead vs marathon. Zoey is no better than Francis. Louis no less accurate than Bill. Each player is on an even footing and can pick the weapons that suit their style best, can heal with a medkit or patch up briefly with pills. They all can lay down walls of fire or lob a distracting pipe bomb. How the person plays with the tools offered is up to them. There is no dedicated healer, though someone can play that way. There is no dedicated tanker beyond “Hey you’ve slightly more health, you annoy the Witch”. There is no best weapon. You use what you have in a manner that suits yourself. Could that be applied to MMOs en masse? I haven’t a clue, though I will watch the one that recently caught my eye that might.

Levels and classes are a wonderful introduction to online games and teach you how to play in the virtual worlds that so many people love. Sooner or later though, the fun comes from having nothing but a shotgun and a prayer.