Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Double XP Weekend Returns

From the City of Heroes Facebook Page

We're celebrating the recent launch of Issue 16: Power Spectrum in style by offering all our players a Double XP weekend! But that's not all, all inactive accounts in good standing will also be given access to City of Heroes and City of Villains® during the Double XP weekend! Here are the dates and times:

  • Starts: Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 8:59 a.m. Pacific Time (11:59 a.m. Eastern Time)
  • Ends: Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time (2:59 a.m. Eastern Time)

It’s a longer period this time around (Hey that’s 5pm GMT so just as I finish work. Win). I’ll be on a whole hell of a lot on various levels. So anyone out there fancy coming along, inactive accounts will be back on and I will be running teams all over the place on Virtue. My global is as ever, @Ardua.

My plans revolve (at the moment) around a range of characters blue side and two on the red side. Levels 48, 27 and 22 blue. Levels 27 and 21 red. Guest appearances by the Robo-Buddy Mk IV may also be on the cards. That however (for those of you who haven’t been in Paragon in a while) doesn’t mean you can’t come and play on anything you want. Super sidekicking means everyone will always be the level of the team and always get xp, even if they themselves are a higher level. Rushing to 50 or sampling the proliferated sets way down at level 1, you’re more than welcome to play with us.

This is also a good time to mention a friend and I are resurrecting a role-play supergroup of ours and more information will come on that, but if you have any magic themed characters you plan on keeping around, feel free to join us. Other than that, send a tell, have some fun and enjoy the xp bonus.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In The Grim Darkness Of The Far Future…

…There is only Awesome.

First we’ll deal with the shameless Games Workshop plug and then get on topic. Ultramarines: The Movie 

Love them or loathe them, the smurfs are getting a movie. Here’s hoping that they go for the body horror Tyranids rather than the “not getting rated in any country ever” full flavour of Chaos. (Though as a Necron fan, I wouldn’t say no to implacable robotic horde.)

In another war torn future which also features Smurfs, we have Planetside. Auraxis has long been the site of a never ending three way battle between the forces of the Vanu Sovereignty, the New Conglomerate (Smurfs) and the Terran Republic (Commies).

A few weeks ago Planetside announced that the servers were being merged into one single server, and as pointed out in a Massively article, while that normally would be a bad thing; it meant there were more targets for everyone to shoot.

Fast forward to quite recently and I got a mail from Planetside Universe regarding rumours of Planetside 2. Since then PS-U has reported more tidbits, up to and including the fact that SOE has registered the domain I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this. Planetside, though I didn’t play for long or terribly often when I did, has always remained a memorable and wonderful game experience for me. There really was a way for everyone to fill their desired niche, granted with the one requirement of “shoot the other guy some”.

I know shooters aren’t for everyone but they do seem to be making a comeback where MMO’s are concerned. Plus even based on what Planetside is not counting what it could be, it is a perpetual three way war for dominance with stealth, sniping, tank battles, BFRs (Battle Frame Robotics but we both know what you thought it meant), support, command, logistics, planning and a whole lot of DAKKA. It has what people have asked for in other games (WAR) with the three factions. It has roles for everyone to play and to be honest, I’ve always thought the Command Ranks vs the Battle Ranks was a wonderful way to breed leaders and make sure the people running your group were good at it.

Until the Warhammer 40k MMO takes shape or Global Agenda jumps onto the scene (and perhaps even then) if I need Moar Dakka, Auraxis is going to be the source.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Scarybooster Asks Me Stuff

Hop on over to Scary Booster (you should have been going anyway!) and see my barely coherent ramble in response to his fantastic article section that’ll release every Monday about the bloggers you know and may follow on Twitter.

How I became Ardua

Monday, September 21, 2009

Champions Snark, for the lulz

Just a little funny snarking at Champions Online coupled with a plug for Massively. All in good fun.

Sareini:  Hmm... nothing about pre-30 content issues, nothing about teaming, nothing about aggro management and nothing about possibly raising the level cap. Or anything on end-game content. Why are people going mad for this game again?And I ask this as someone playing it too 
 Ardy:  Cause its pretty
(If you like that sort of thing)
Basically... it's the Paris Hilton of MMOs
 Sareini:  Feh. THey don't even have as many options as CoX in character creation.'s going to die in a B-movie horror? Excellent!

To each their own of course. I could have great fun in Champions (why can I hear that sketch about having ones balls in the Paris Hilton in my head?) but at the moment I’m put off by a whole whack of stuff. More to come on that.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What’s in a Name?

Earlier this week I finally cleared up a recurring problem. A search on Google for my name as an exact phrase returns 11,100 results. (I am pleased at the roundness of that number)

Gmail has a feature whereby if your email is and someone sends a message to it still gets to you. Your name is more or less your own.

Sadly either through penmanship or a slip of the finger another guys emails were coming to me. The difference between us? One initial. Suffice to say I received things I likely shouldn’t have from businesses. No harm done, I rang Atlanta and myself and himself got it sorted. Hey how often do you get to dial a number and say “<Name>? My name is <exact same name>”?

However I found the whole situation mildly annoying for a while, I cast around trying to find the right guy to fix the issue. What’s this to do with anything MMO? Well Champions, here’s where you come in.

Sure the @Global name that you started in CoH is handy, it really is. I remember being confused by my brother telling me in WoW he has no global chat channels whereas I’ve recently had to cut some. In the serverless blender that is CO, your @name is the unique part of your identity. No longer is your character name how people will identify you. Sure this helps cut down on some things. Ignore an idiot and you ignore every possible alt of him. At the same time, especially when you ignore the @ name (I am told it can be turned off in the chat box) you are no longer unique. Yes there are 11,100 returns for my name on Google, but there’s only one me and the only similar named chap I’ve met lives some thousands of miles away.

Your powers can be retconned every which way, at a cost. Your outfit can be changed up, down and sideways. The last part of a permanent identity is now immersion breaking. You could have a zone full of Bob The Builders thanks to the @ name making them all different, but do you really want to run into that guy with your name every time you turn a corner? Even if it’s initials in the difference.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Unadulterated MMO

Do you use any third party software for your games? How about Wikis and databases? Do you have any UI mods or quality of life adjustments that didn’t come in the box?

Should you have to?

Two comments around the blogosphere got me to thinking recently. Also the fact that the spell checker is at home with blogosphere but not “mods” amuses me. Anyway, Tobold is asking where you would like your database. He gives examples of how many and varied sites there are for WoW that document the game outside of it versus Luminary that contained a database with all he could want for that game. Syncaine installed X-fire and Ventrilo before DarkFall.

Now I’m not saying things like that are bad, far from it. I occasionally hop on Teamspeak to chat to friends I’ve made in CoH. Saves loading Skype or any other voice chat program. It’s nice to chat to them. When I played Warhammer, I would frequent the Vent server for the Sentinels. It’s an enjoyable thing and really, it makes connecting to people easier. Context can be lost in text which is easier to convey by voice. How many of you have dealt with drama in the game because of a misinterpreted sentence? I use ParagonWiki to look at future powers for some of my characters and on occasion to re-read old fluff that I may have forgotten or otherwise enjoy going over again.

UI Mods I have no experience with whatsoever. Anything I ever did in Warhammer I did on the strength of the default interface. No fiddly bits of software to make my mail easier or to square away the warband for optimal healing or suchlike. Maybe I could have been a better gamer for having used them, but I like to think any good impressions I made stand because of what I did myself, rather than relying on what may or may not be written for a game.

That all said, when was the last time you played your favourite game, unadulterated? No mods, no third party programs floating in the background, no wikis or databases with the optimal numbers for grinding that loot you think you want and no additional soundtrack. Is it a dying practice? Yes sooner or later people will pop on their own music (I don’t, I’m strange), hop on TS to discuss privately the idiot they’ve picked up on the team or install a mod that gives them that slight edge.

I suppose my question is this, should game interfaces and the atmosphere of the game leave room for modding? Should the game present itself to you in such a way that anything you change is merely cosmetic and to your own preferences, like key binds and window positions, as opposed to absolutely needing a certain tool to get by?

Should we play an unadulterated game or are they improved through mutability?

For added irony, I wrote and posted this via Windows Live Writer rather than

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons…well Lizardmen

I have just played about 30 minutes of DDO:EU. No this isn’t one of those now seemingly popular “I spent four microseconds on the game and it sucks” posts.

I finished the starter dungeon and I have a kick ass mace that is on fire!

Now it may be due to the fact I’ve never played any form of DnD that I find this amazing. It’s a starter zone newbie reward weapon, I know intellectually it’s rubbish. I know that there are better weapons for my brand spanking new Dwarf Ranger (Ardua Dalinsson on Khyber), as well as better armor than the rags he’s wearing.

What is important to take from this, for me at least as I play so few fantasy mmos, is the fact that after 30 minutes, it doesn’t matter how much cooler the gear gets, I was thrilled with my first set.

Character creation in DDO was very quick and straight forward and had all the details up front that I could want. What had to be purchased, what rough style each class was, the specialities inherent in the class itself. I prettied myself up and found myself the survivor of a shipwreck. The quick and entertaining little scripted tutorial taught me plenty, made me interested and gave me cool toys. I’ll certainly play the game again, hey it is free after all. If I never did though, I’ll always remember fondly that game that gave me a mace ON FIRE as my newbie weapon.

What more could I ask for?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Viewers are Geniuses

Sometimes Viewers are geniuses, other times it just goes right over their head.

Sometimes one person changes the scope of a virtual world, other times they just get pwned.

A while back Tobold talked about the Illusion of Impact and had this to say for himself.

EVE Online is a game of high intrigue, politics, and treachery. Guilds get toppled by assassins setting up a clever trap. The universe's most powerful alliances break up when a highly placed member turns traitor. Players pull of clever scams and bank heists, and get away with stealing virtual currency they can legally sell for thousands of dollars.

Does this sound like a representative description of EVE Online to you? Obviously it is not. While everything I listed there is documented and true, this is not how EVE Online plays for the average player. Only a handful of players is engaged in high politics or intergalactic bank scams. The average EVE player logs on, does a couple of missions, gets into a couple of space fights, mines a little, transports some goods, and logs off again.

Now broadly speaking he’s correct. Only a handful of players organised the Guiding Hand Social Club and pulled off a very classy execution. Only a few, a ballsy few, are responsible for some of the best reading you’ll get about any game. They’ve put the time in though and they deserve those headlines. EVE could give me the tools I need to make a name for myself, get an article in various websites and have me remembered for a long time for a heist or a kill or a blunder. The reason I never played EVE was I knew I wouldn’t give it the time it deserved so I could live out those amazing stories.

In Earth & Beyond, I spent a lot of time on the EBPortal forums and knew a few of the people whose names were put down in mission text because of their devotion and contribution to the game.

Enter into this, The Secret World. The Secret World is going to have puzzles. It’s going to be filled with myths and legends from the world over. It’s going to have the jostling for position inside each group and between the three groups. Your cabal could remain nameless or it could end up immortalised for its deeds. I’m not the only one to be drawn in.

From a mechanical standpoint the game will be very interesting to see. No levelling, stat items separate from clothing (wear what you like to be seen in, not what is +5), social integration with Twitter and Facebook (they’ve made a start on that to be sure) and some seriously gorgeous graphics.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve finally matured and I am ready to give to The Secret World what I never gave to EVE. I want to get my foot in the door, to be there when it launches and to live through the wild days as everyone discovers what there is in this new place. I think I am ready to give my hobby the time and attention it deserves to get back out of it so much more.

For some, the game won’t do it for you. I hope then that it becomes for you what the Continuum RPG has for me. TvTropes said it best, "The best time-travel game you'll ever read, but never actually play.". I don’t know if I am smart enough to crack the codes, I don’t know if I am committed enough to cause the impact others think is an illusion. I only know I’m a Templar, I’m ready and I’m going to try.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Do Games Need More Holidays?

It’s that time of year. I want to say a quick word about tragedies and people.

Ten years ago in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland, there was a tragedy. It hit the family very hard and each year the community comes together to remember it.

Eight years ago, tomorrow, in New York, there was a much larger tragedy. One that is steeped in all sorts of emotions and agendas. It too is still remembered.

Now these two events are completely unrelated. What is universal is that people will come to mourn the events and the lives lost. On one end of the scale we’ve an event so local that if anyone across the entire player base of City of Heroes had heard of it, other than me, I’d be surprised. On the other, there’s an event which brings out all sorts of emotions in all sorts of people and can be called politically charged. (Oh by the way, any comments that make light of it or show any disrespect to the departed will be deleted and the commenter will be shamed to the best of my ability)

I remembered recently an event that took place in Earth & Beyond. There was a particular zone in the Beta Hydri System. Glenn I think it was, or perhaps Grissom. It had several nav buoys you could fly to representing milestones in space travel. When the Columbia Disaster occurred players congregated in this zone to hold a memorial. Afterwards the Devs retconned in a new buoy for the disaster, if memory serves that is. Thus there was a memorial for a tragedy that anyone can relate to.

A lot of MMOs already celebrate Christmas/Generic Winter Holiday, Valentines, Halloween and their own birthday. Should there be a date in an MMOs social calendar for remembering those who we have lost? Is that better handled by the player base than the developers? Or is it too much of an intrusion of the real world that games offer an escape from?

Would you mourn with gamers, connected only by the virtual space you share or is it something best left to people to do in private?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I always carry a flashlight

Dark days are coming but I like to think myself prepared.

Though if there’s one thing Harry Dresden has taught me, it’s this. If you must be the first to bring light into the darkness, do it off to the side so the big nasties don’t immediately do nasty things to you.

A few days ago Funcom released a new trailer for the Secret World and an initiation test. The test is genius.

When you’re building up hype for a game you need people excited and interested. The Initiation test manages to do that while also going a step further. The music sets the tone for the game, the glimpses of the art concepts give you an idea of the world and leave you wanting more. The results paint a rough picture of the three factions in the game and finally, a quick entry of your email puts you in for a chance to win beta access. In another stroke of genius, you can post the results to your Facebook. Within minutes of my doing so, friends who have no interest in online gaming were taking the test and posting results. Free word of mouth advertising, a method of drumming up interest and the beta application all in one clever package. I am impressed.

I had noticed The Secret World on Massively before but had not gotten interested before because it was too secret. Sure I could have made the effort, but ARGs can demand a lot of time and I didn’t at the time want to spend it. Now though I’m excited, I’m interested and I’m still waiting for the 'biggest thing yet' to come to light.

Take the test and tell me, whose side are you on?

(Also just a note, the counter on the website is counting down to December 23rd 2012)

Ardys Targets


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Software, Games and Ardy

This is only a rather small post as I test out the Windows Live Writer program. Apparently it’ll blog on blogspot for me, so why not?

It’ll also mean people will stop wondering why I fill notepad text files in my downtime.

Anyway my MMO plans for the next while.

Currently Playing

Aim to play soon

Waiting Patiently For

  • Warhammer 40k Online
  • Dust 514
  • The Secret World (I’ll admit, this is a new one for me)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Xp Curves Ahead

I've been talking to my friend Sareini today a bit about CO, CoH and xp curves. We're both old enough hats in City of Heroes to remember (even if the term confused me) the Purple Patch. It was a patch similar to the launch day shenanigans of Champions Online.
Quotes bulk out posts, so I'm going to be cheesy.

Sareini: This was way, way back in the early days of CoH. People were apparently finding it incredibly easy to solo groups of purple-conning mobs, so they put out a patch which raised mob difficulty. Across the board. Which made it damn near impossible to solo unless you were a few types of meleer.

Oh, and they put the patch out on a Friday and then left for the weekend.

Every game tweaks their critters now and then. Archvillains have been tweaked more times than I can remember. Powers have been changed and when they brought in Sonic and the whole concept of resistances, that changed alot of things too.

However I remember this so called Purple Patch. Suddenly minions, all but the lowest of the low, were an issue. Jack Emmert went on record (and I really must find and cite it) saying that One Hero should be equal to about Three Minions. No more wading through the faceless mooks of the opposition, those mooks had teeth. How do you feel like a hero though when a bunch of Skulls kick your ass? It's one thing to be done in by the machinations of an insanely powered insane threat, it's another to get your ass handed to you by lowly gang initiates.

Since then City of Heroes has had various modifications to how powerful you are. The Global Defense Nerf made it more unlikely that you'd be hit yes, but it also reduced defenses by 40%. Enhancement Diversification had some people screaming. It reduced how many enhancements you could effectively slot in a power by introducing diminishing returns. Changes were made to AoE powers limiting how many people you could hit with a single blast and changes made to taunt, ensuring that one tanker could no longer herd an entire map.
There were also improvements made, Invention Sets would be prime amongst them.

All of these changes are separate to the Curve Smoothing they did to make xp flow faster in certain level ranges, if memory serves the 30-35 range was particularly bad once upon a time.

These things happen though. Games are modified, some bits are clearly too easy, others far too hard. Sometimes it's to curtail farming, other times it's to make things more balanced and fair across the classes (which logically shouldnt be balanced in comparison anyway).

Quick shot at CO, yes I couldn't resist. Generally when there's a big shake up, City of Heroes grants all characters a free respec. You don't even have to go anywhere, just type /respec and voila, you can respec. Why didn't CO, made by the same people who have lived through the same problems, give the same ability?

Back on topic, I want to put a question to anyone reading this. How long should it take a normal person, playing no more than three hours a night, to reach the level cap?
I understand that there are different sorts of players, some want to get there as fast as possible, others prefer an extended smell the roses type of play.

It seems that most games eventually run into the problem of power and entertainment. If you are all powerful, how do they keep you entertained and thus p(l)aying? If you are held back by an unforgiving curve from getting more powerful for too long, you won't be entertained. If you level to the cap in seconds, they must have scads for you to do or risk you having little to no interest in sticking around.

It seems we've lost our patience as gamers. People don't want to have to work and make an achievement out of that next ding, they want power and they want it now. Champions Online has delivered this, Travel power from level 5, ripping up scenery to smash foes with, impressive attacks and a go-go-go pace that rushes you into battle. They just started to run out of things to keep you doing and forgot their own previously learned lessons.

Personally, I don't mind taking my time on occasion. Enjoy the journey, smell the roses, see the sights. Only then friends want you to play with them and they're soooo far ahead, but hey, you know that one great spot in that zone where the xp per minute is fantastic. Curve schmurve, people want a faster lane. Or do they?

Sareini: See, it's all about your audience. And personally, I wish they wouldn't keep making the xp easier in certain level ranges. I mean, I enjoy doing the content, and RPing (even if it's just in my head) the storylines, and now with one good team or TF I'm outlevelling huge chunks of the game. Yes, I can exemp or Flashback, but it's the principal of the thing. I shouldn't have to say, "Hmm, should I solo and get to do this content first time through, or play with my friends and miss it all?"...yeah, I'm probably not representative of players in general though :P

Sareini: The way I see is... *gets on soapbox* they need to concentrate less on all these TFs that you can only do from 45+ and the like, and put in more mid-game content. Will we ever see the Faultline trial, for instance? Or whatever they're building in Steel near Boomtown? Or new storyarcs or mini-TFs involving Boomtown or shock horror Dark Astoria?