Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo

You only really lose if you never try. I personally did not try and that's my loss.

I had outlined an idea and did start, but quickly fell out of love with how it was going. So in my inspired laziness I decided that as it was a loss either way (I dawdled far far too much) I would wait till the last weekend and try hammer out as many words on a new direction and tone of the novel idea as I could.

Then of course life intervened. So I lost for not following the advice I gave other people several times. It doesn't matter if it's rubbish, if it barely makes sense or only has a fleeting relationship with coherence, it only matters that you write. 50,000 words or bust, quality optional.

Perhaps next year I'll smack myself in the head and do it properly. Either way I must say congrats to Sehkmet, Renalae, Sypster, MorrowS and a huge congratulations to the absolutely nuts Scarybooster who wrote his on an iPhone.

It's only 8am GMT here so there may well be more congrats to come, Sareini and shinobitsn I'm looking at you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Intellectual Properly

In my fit of nerd rage previously, Terry made a good comment.

It's box art. It's supposed to get your attention and trigger certain subliminal behavior responses.

As far as Marketing is concerned, fighting and spaceships and explosions with a clean cut looking fellow front and center > 5 balding nobodies of various colors with a collection of head ridges sitting around a table, maybe arguing or having tea or something.

He’s completely correct. If you counted up the episodes of the Original series and the amount of times the Captain Kirked out, you’d get a fairly action packed show. Times changed with Captain Picard who favoured more diplomatic or cerebral solutions. Don’t be fooled though, he could still kick your ass up around your ears. Captain Sisko went his own way and had a war to fight, between Gods and Demons and a proper war with Klingons and Cardassians and Breen and so on. Captain Janeway sadly was portrayed about fifteen thousand different ways per season but had her fair share of ass kicking. Captain Archer went a special crazy for all of season three when someone in Paramount decided that the equation “Sci fi+GRIMDARK=Money” applied to any and all science fictions.

On a related but otherwise totally different point, Jim Butcher has a map (illustrated by Priscilla Spencer) now for his Codex Alera series. This is a good thing. It’s a lovely piece of artwork and helps flesh out the world.

Only it’s backwards. Rather, in my head it is. For some reason I had always held Canea as being to the east rather than the west. Perhaps I didn’t pay enough attention, or perhaps I just preferred it that way. Such is the point that people start abusing canon and doing slashfiction. If anyone knows which way up or around the world goes, it’s the author, not me.

This brings me to a point though. The world of Alera to me goes the opposite direction to what is it. The world of Star Trek to me is about the triumph of humanity and its betterment rather than pew pew laser beams. Yes there are battles and action sequences liberally sprinkled throughout the canon. Heck my favourite Captain is from Peter David’s New Frontier series and Mackenzie Calhoun is a complete Kirk style cowboy Captain.

Ultimately, the intellectual property that is Star Trek has many aspects and for each there are fans. Could any company create a game that would satisfy all or even most parties? Is that even achievable in games based on an IP rather than a completely new world where there isn’t 40 or 50 years of fans idolising different aspects of it?

In the end did I lash out at Star Trek because I don’t feel that Cryptic has done the property properly, or is it because they’ve done it justice, but not in a way that suits my mental image of Star Trek? Only time will tell. I’m going to give it a try of course, how could I not? However if in the end it is all brawn and no brain, “Fire all Phasers” rather than “Open Channel” and gung ho at the expense of thought, it just won’t be Star Trek for me.

I want to boldly go, to seek out new life and new civilisations. Solve their problems, save them from the dangers that plague the universe and work towards a shining ideal first put forward decades ago. I don’t want to spam photons and go for coffee, no matter how much I can customize a race or ship.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I’m sure you wouldn’t…

I’m sure you all wouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. I’m sure you all wouldn’t jump to conclusions on scant information.

I’m sure each and every one of you was raised right and isn’t going to cause a fuss over this.

According to Massively what you see in the link is the Star Trek Online Box art. Now being responsible mature people you won’t immediately read anything into it. Except we’re on the internet and that’s all bullshit and it’s time for nerd rage.

Specifically if people had a problem with the PCGamer Star Trek covers featuring vast … tracts of land on the girls, then what about this? Gun toting, fire raging, glorified battle with a Star Trek badge.

Suffice to say, diplomacy doesn’t seem to be an option.

We come in pwn, shoot to kill.

EDIT : Addition from a good friend

Doman: This is space, it shouldn't be "vast ... tracts of land" but rather "heavenly bodies"

Monday, November 09, 2009

MMO Blog Alliance Charity Drive 2009

The holidays are almost upon us again and this year the MMO Blogging Alliance wants to help ensure a good season for all! We’ve decided to pull together and encourage our readers to donate to those less fortunate. It has been a tough year for many families across the world and a little boost can go a long way. Please consider donating to one of the many charities that we recommend or one you select on your own. If you’re a blogger and would like to participate in our drive, it is as easy as writing a post, including this at the top, linking to the other posts, and picking a charity to donate to. Let’s show everyone that in 2009 the MMO community can make a positive difference in the world!

For Echoes of Nonsense, like some of the others, I’ve gone for Child’s Play. Honestly, every year I see it and every year I mean to do something but always let it slip me by. So this time around I’m getting behind Child’s Play and supporting them.

From the Child’s Play website:

Since 2003, over 100,000 gamers worldwide have banded together through Child’s Play, a community based charity grown and nurtured from the game culture and industry. Over 3.5 million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children’s hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

There’s a widget going up on the side to donate directly to Child’s Play (i.e. I shan’t be touching the monies) and for those of you out there who have your own near and dear charities, be sure to check the roll of honour below as there are many more charities covered, from Amnesty International to housing the homeless, breast cancer and lolcats needy kitties.

Roll of honour on the MBACD 2009, brainchild of Ferrel and supported by these great folks.

This is our first year and if you’d like to know more or just chat about the initiative hop on over to the Epic Slant forum. Information on donating toys to Child’s Play can be found on their site.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Last Chance

Hey folks, just a quick poke in the eye here.

Today is the final day where you can buy the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.2010 MMO Calendar

Information and Store here

If you want an epic piece of MMO art every month for a year, this is the last chance. Go now and grab it, 100% of proceeds go to charity.

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 http://twitter.com/Ardua

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.

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 www.planetside2.com. 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.

Ardyhttp://www.massively.com/2009/09/21/champions-onlines-bill-roper-talks-retcons-powers-and-more/
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.
...it'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 Comment.Now@gmail.com and someone sends a message to CommentNow@gmail.com 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 Blogger.com

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

Allies

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?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Life in the City

If you've ever played City of Heroes, you've likely been around Paragon a bit. Even so there are entire zones you may have missed on your characters journey from 1-50. Maybe because they're older and you didn't want to. Maybe because the contacts you selected from Radio missions just didn't send you there or maybe you just stuck to the Radio missions.

In the Rogue Isles, the City of Villains, things are quite a bit smaller. Mercy leads to Port Oakes, Port Oakes to Cap and so on and so forth. Every time you're in a level band that opens a pvp zone, you get a mission to at least talk to the zone liasion. The Isles are a small and interlinked place. That isn't to say there's not things to see. My friends and I have a Widow team whose entire raison d'ĂȘtre is to work their way through each and every contact they can, turning off xp to make sure that we see it the first time through rather than using the Oroboros flashback system to relive it.

The Rogue Isles came after Paragon City and are a good example of what to do. Each island is meant for a different level range and there's always travel involved when you get sent back to an area later in your career. That retracing almost always is done properly.

Paragon City however is suffering due to its metropolitan sprawl. There are so many far flung corners of the city, people just don't see them all unless they make an effort to do so.
Partially this is due to some content being newer and better done than other bits. Partially it's because some places are just easier to deal with.

Take Faultline. Old Faultline was a horrible place full of zombies and Clockwork and Circle of Thorns. It had pitfalls a plenty and if you were a superspeeder, watch your feet. Before missions got a boost and you could as easily street sweep to 50 as mission, an old friend and I used to sweep Faultline, rarely was there competition. Why? Because Faultline was crap. It was desolate, it had no missions attached to it, no contacts. The nearest Hospital in Skyway was on the other end of that zone.
Issue 8 revamped Faultline and brought life to the area. Contacts were introduced with a level range of 15-20 and 20-25. There were more badges, including the out of the way Easter egg room, and there was more to see. Travel was made easier and Faultline was made the place to go for the mid levels. Pocket D even got an exit in Faultline to help with traffic.

New Faultline gives you it all, it has well written and interlinked arcs. Four contacts, four-ish missions each. Three or four of the characters you meet during the run come back later on in the game. There are Archvillains earlier than ever, Yin-O enhancements and all sorts of interesting things to get up to.

New Faultline has spoiled me.

Instead of working my way through all it has to offer on my blaster, I have gone to Striga instead. Introduced in Issue 3 if memory serves, Striga is the stronghold of the Council. It also has a string of four contacts, leading up to an unlocked task force contact. Striga however is tougher. It's better than the earliest zones (Boomtown) but it is by no means a quick run through.

Striga for all its worth, for all the fun toys you get (Holy Shotgun!) and for the two taskforces it contains gets passed up in favour of other faster flashier places.

This is how places we live are. Either it's small and you know everyone and every corner or it is built up and the slightest change to one area can draw people from miles away, leaving other places to stagnate.

This is all building up to something though. World of Warcraft : Cataclysm is going back and rocking the old world of Azeroth. That patch of grass you used to kill ten bunnies in? Steaming lake of lava now. I don't know myself, not being a player, but I can imagine revamping all the geography is also going to need a pass through on the quests. Will they be brought up to whatever the current population considers standard? I couldn't say.

In City of Heroes, the places you've likely never been are going to become more accessible first and then more irrelevant. Issue 16 brings supersidekicking and removes most zone entry restrictions. Never been to Striga because you were too low a level when it was interesting? From I16 on, you can go there as a level one and if you're supersidekicked, not worry about mentor range and getting turned into paste the moment you lag behind the group.

Going Rogue however promises to bring new zones to an already overburdened city. With the coming dimensional travel, I think it's time to say goodbye to some of the Hazard areas that never got the Faultline treatment and may never. It's time to close those giant zone gates and block out parts of the City, for the good of the City.

Personally I would love to hear that with the newest expansion, there will be work done on all the other zones. Updating and bringing new life and new contacts to all the corners of Paragon. If not though, I think we should pay our respects to the likes of Dark Astoria and Boomtown. Wave goodbye to the deepest regions of the Shadow Shard and Creys Folly. Supersidekicking promises to make the city more open than before, but it can't guide people to places of little interest or old tired content. It'll make the world smaller for a while as everyone can suddenly play on the same level, but the world is going to get larger once again, with the ability to play in Praetoria and switch sides.

Look upon the maps of that world of Superheroes. What would you change in the City of Tomorrow?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Commentapalooza : The Tobolding

For my junk post to inspire comments, I take my lead from Ysharros and I expand upon the point made.

While pie is meh, I posit that this refers only to the American convention of fruit based pies. Cottage Pie and Shepards pie when made well are far superior to mere fruit pie.
Further and to reiterate, Mince Beef and Onion pie is awesome.

However, to grant Ysharros one small boon, my father swears by (oh how I wish it was at) apple pie with cheese on top.
I prefer cheese and peanut butter sandwiches.

For Tobold by the League for Greater Comment Volume. Never mind the quality — feel the width!

League Memebers
Ferrel who hates bloody peasants.
Ysharros wielder of the holy cheese
Syp whom the cheese did not agree with
Rivs who is piloting the breakaway Attention Whore Union
Frank who gives tips and points out he whom we must topple.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Issue 16

Issue 16 : Power Spectrum for City of Heroes is now in Open Beta.

Thanks to CoH_OCR and Niviene_CoH for the tweets.

Patch notes are linked in the title. I'll blog properly in the morning. But before I go, a reason why I shouldn't think too hard about game mechanics.

Supersidekicking is supposed to help deal with farming.

[23:46] Mr. Earl: "super-SK" sounds like "no PLz" :P
[23:47] Jonathan: tis somewhat :P
[23:47] Jonathan: Though logically, get 47s, supersk the folks to pl.
they're 46. Difficulty setting yourself some 50+ mobs
[23:48] Mr. Earl: ahh :-O
[23:48] Jonathan: aaaand turn off xp so the 47s dont level
[23:49] Jonathan: Heeeyy.... I just rediscovered how to farm CoH post
i16

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cryptic Model

This morning I was talking to my good friend Seph (That's Sephorus or Hey, Bitch! to you). Given that we met in City of Heroes and have become good friends, we tend to talk about the game a fair bit. Of course no conversation about City of Heroes nowadays will stay away from Champions for long.

So I ask, are you happy with the Cryptic Model?

Seph: It's not a game I'd sign up for right this second. There's too many things that I feel need more polish for them to be acceptable. However, there's enough stuff either done well or with the potential to be polished up real damn nicely that, given a bit of time, I'd play it. It's certainly in the category of "when I'm done with City of Heroes". Not something I'd jump ship for, but not something I'm willing to pass up, either.

The emphasis in the above is mine.

Polish, that dastardly term trotted out every time someone compares something to WoW. Does it have the polish of WoW? Did they spend enough time on polish? It isn't as polished as it could be.
This isn't a dig at WoW, but rather at the term. A polished turd is just a shiny turd. A diamond in the rough is just as good as a flawless one, it simply hasn't gotten there yet but you can see the worth.

Anyway that's a divergence, if polish is synonymous with WoW and Blizzard, what then is the Cryptic Model?
I submit that it is more stuff than you could ever possibly use.

Take a look around at what people are saying about Champions, almost universally is the mention of the character creator and for good reason. Cryptic broke ground with the City of Heroes creator and this one has even more crammed into it. Moving
tails, limb sliders, stances, how you want to run, mood, backpacks and more. I know someone who spent literal hours in the creator, saving characters and doing it all again.
If you preorder, you get more options; if you microtransact, more options. If you get the 6 month or lifetime sub, even more options. So many options that they carry over into Star Trek Online where for reasons best known to themselves they're
offering Mirror Universe skins (do not get me started on that, I'm keeping that nerdrage for later).
Every Issue of City of Heroes had yet more options of things to do. Champions will likely have the same. Options upon options upon options. For some, this is nirvana.

However it seems to be the hat for Cryptic. People are complaining about how the game is set up, or performing or how its console dna is showing. Cryptic on the other hand is touting the colour customization (and boy did they learn that lesson well after telling City of Heroes it couldnt be done, which...soon it can be), modular powersets and the flexibility of the creator.

Is the game polished? I couldn't begin to guess. My graphics card is still in Silicon Heaven so everything I see is rough and ugly.

Are they even trying? I can't say for sure, I got lost in their submenus trying to find out.

Polish be damned, they want you to select your eyebrows.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

...and I feel fine.

Yes this is somewhat related to World of Warcraft : Cataclysm

Coming with the latest WoW expansion is something that I've personally only seen once before. A change of the worlds landscape on a major scale. Previously I saw this with The Bending in Planetside when the plaent Auraxis shoved its bits across the cosmos (and completely removed the Oshur continent in favour of Battle Islands).

That said, and I'm sure its happened more than I've seen, in any healthy game, the world ends on a regular basis. Well... the world as you knew it anyway.

How many shifts does it take though until the world you started in and the world you have now are only vaugely related in your mind? Old hands will always complain about how easy it is to level now, newbies wont know about aspects of certain areas and miss scads of story. Is this a move forward though? In some cases yes. I imagine Cataclysm will cause a wave of alts through the old content as people go to see what has become of what they grew bored of/outleveled. In other cases, I don't know. Champions had me go through two versions of two early zones. While they served as good introductions they're also misleading. The impression I got of Canada bore no relation to what the zone actually is. That sudden spike of awe was invalidated by the world changing so quickly.

Syp has posted over on Bio Break about the difference between convenience and consistency. Making the game easier versus keeping what the game was. Whichever wins out for each game, sooner or later the world changes. Let's just hope in the games you love, it's always a change worth singing about.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Champions and Ardy

I knew I forgot something. I had a long string of blogging to be doing about Champions. I've stuff yet to come on the Microtransaction bits, MMO bits and so on.

This however is inspired by Werit, Keen and the players of the Shield of Paragon, Guardian Angels and other Coh supergroups.

I don't really like Champions.

That said, I never really did. There are some who greeted the news way back when of a Champions mmo and from their reaction it was though the Lord God himself came down and handed them a dream. Hark how the angels sing, go forth and pwn for justice.
I was unimpressed. Maybe it's a function of those gaps in my geekery that are responsible for me never having played a single Blizzard game (and boy was twitter shocked at that).

That first feeling has carried all the way through closed beta up until now.

First a quick comparison. This time last year I was chomping at the bit to get into Warhammers closed beta. I wanted that game. When I got the CO beta invite, I had forgotten I applied. Most midweek preview sessions ("Hi it's wednesday, log in, test") came when I was busy and the weekend ones rarely stood a chance if there was anything going on in Paragon City.

Champions has delivered a truely impressive Character Creator. But you know what? I'm not going to give them awards for that. Of course they delivered one. They made City of Heroes and its character creator. Delivering anything less than what they left behind in the hands of Paragon Studio would have been staggering idiocy. As much as some people will give it its due with the hours you can spend tweaking to your hearts delight, well... sometimes I just would like to play. It shouldnt take long to get from login to tutorial. When you're being given options to change the size of different parts of a single limb, you've gotten a tad silly in my book.

The variations on the characters get especially pointless when you consider the type of game Champions is. It's supposed to be action packed, quick quick quick, hit the button, build your energy, FINISH HIM! With the amount of sharding they're doing (Keen called it redundant instancing) and the pace of combat they want, I haven't yet seen how the game will have a social centre. Perhaps I'm wrong or more likely I didn't play enough. Champions though feels like a ritalin deprived game. They don't want you standing and spinning stories, they want you out beating the next guy with a tree you ripped out of the ground (which is admittedly cool). Who cares if your biceps ripple ever so slightly and your eyebrows are a certain way and your facial expression is sad. I'm going to notice your size, any bright colours, how you travel/hit and if you run funny. That's it though. The faster the game pushes me, the less time I have to take in what took you three hours and a muse to create when you'd have been just as effective if you hit the random button.

One note on the character creator. City of Heroes players, prepare to recognise many pieces. I don't just mean the art, I mean the names as well. I don't know if Cryptic retained rights to bits and pieces of CoH. For example the game engine (at least according to wiki so take that with a grain of salt) is a modified version of the CoH one.

Moving on, there are bits about Champions I enjoyed. The travel powers all have looked good and add a nice touch, however when you look at them close they're mostly variations on flight and jumping. Still they do look good.

I enjoyed the ability to select from where some powers originate, I liked how quick and easy it was to change power colours (whereas when CoH has it in Issue 16, I predict many trips to Icon). There are plenty of a-okay things about the game, but none of them grabbed me.

There are also plenty of things I hate. In case you hadn't guessed I hate the pacing. It's bad enough that with the instancing I may end up selecting zones to follow friends only to find that they've done a certain mission and ended up in yet another instance where I cannot follow (or at least if there is an easy way to follow, I didnt see it. Im talking about moving from Wartorn tutorial Millenium city to peaceful and from wintery blizzard Canada to regular old Canada, same place different versions).
The game is all go. For some that will work, they want the action and get it quickly. For others, I forsee early burn out.
I hate the cel shading animation, I always have. It's never done anything for me though I will grant it is very true to the comic book feel. I hate the chat system where everyone at all times is reminded of my username. And why is that? Well apparently there wont ever be any naming conflicts. You too can be Superman, because your usename will make it unique. Don't give me the monster of a creation suite you have and then make it so that I wont have my own name in the end.

In the end, I've come out of closed beta the same way I went in, unimpressed. City of Heroes has flaws, I'll happily point them out in a second, but despite that they're working on improving the game with each issue (Ardy hates the AE though). I'd sooner spend a day in Paragon City than Millenium City.

The most damning thing about Champions though? I was worried it would gut City of Heroes.
Every single player I know across several global channels has reacted the same way, "Thanks but no thanks".

Champions, you have one final crippling flaw to me and one shining virtue.
Firstly, you have Jack "Statesman" "Force Field isnt broken" Emmert. I don't trust that man any more and while he appears to be learning from some mistakes, I am not yet convinced.

The virtue though? Every thing you do makes Paragon Studios have to work harder to retain its numbers and suceed. Survival of the fittest. I don't think Champions could kill City of Heroes, but it certainly looks like it could forge its predecessor into something unstoppable.

Our world, our wars.

CCP, I love you. Honestly I do.

Why the love for the Icelandic crowd some ask? Well simply they're doing two wonderful things.

Firstly they are launching a console based online FPS game, Dust 514.
Secondly, it is based within the universe of EVE and will interact with the podders.

Pc Gamers and Console Gamers apparently don't get along. So say the games reviews, the fanboys on each side and more besides. I, personally, always thought it was quite odd for Final Fantasy XI to have been launched on consoles. After all it has enough on its plate with the Japan/everyone else divide without throwing in desktop Vs console.
Consoles to me seem more ... for unwinding. I can sit down with a console game and merrily destroy my enemies. It doesnt matter if it's fps, a fighting game, rts or a sim; I have enemies and they need destroying. There's a clear start, there's a middle and an end. You start your race, defend your home, make your first move and then the plot comes after.
Eventually you've won your freedom, won your race or made the best damn Sim torturing device known to man.

MMOs however seem to sit in the middle of the story. No one wants to see their MMO end. Certain plot threads perhaps, but they want the world to continue, to deliver on that persistence promise. At the same time MMOs don't have a clear start for players. The reason for playing took place in the story before anyone ever logged in. There is a world with all its history, you are not the origin of the tale.

How then can the two mindsets co-exsist?
Rather well if my wild unfounded mass guessing is correct.

CCP will be delivering Dust 514 to consoles. It will be familiar to such players. Have gun, will travel. If you've played Halo online, I think you'll probably be able to handle Dust 514.
It's set in the universe of New Eden though. That place where the wonderous stories come from. Where even Dev blogs are a delight (See Operation Unholy Rage).

New Eden has a shake up coming. The cloning tech that lets pod pilots fly without worrying about that silly little mortality issue will be adapted for ground forces. Soldiers that can go on living even after being blown into ludicrous gibs and learn from the experience. These soldiers, these warriors from the console world who are "trained" for this sort of fight will have an effect on New Eden. They will help the ships and fleets win entire worlds.

Personally I've always been unwilling to play EVE because of one simple fact, I don't think I would do it justice.
We read the stories of how slick conmen win one on thousands, of assassination plots and of capers that make millions. I love to read about that universe but never have felt that I would give it what it deserves to be a part of it. Now, now I can.

Dust 514 will tie two platforms and two genres together in such a seamless manner that I'm giddy about not only playing the game but what it means for that old PcVsConsole war.

They're not the enemy anymore, they're the men and women you need to win the next world and in turn you're the pilots whose fleets will bring them new worlds to conquer.

Casual twitch gamer or dedicated corporate magnate. We each have a part to play in that world

Monday, August 10, 2009

Axe Me Again Next Month

Vorri, Aardii, Orrekai. Do you miss me lads? Do you miss getting your Dwarf on and being piloted into mayhem and madness and war? Do you miss the hustle and bustle of Altdorf or the haggling and bragging that goes on in her taverns? Do you miss the sights and the fights and the foes and the pitfalls and the pqs and the keeps?

I know I do.

I know I hear good things about 1.3.1. I know that since the Bioware/Mythic merger people have apparently gained a measure of calm. A sense of peace and a sense of purpose. I hear that they are being more straight forward with us, the fans. I hear that improvements are being made where they are most called for, most needed, those places that I stopped just short of seeing.

Do you want me back? Raising staff and rifle and hammer and spanner in the name of Order? Do you want to ride with the Sentinels, proud in your Gyroharnesses? Do you want to slay your foes, slake your thist and bury your weapons in the worthy?

If I could move to Europe and keep you boys, you know I would.

Failing that, the stars are not yet aligned. Morreslieb and Mannslieb have yet to wax full once more for me.
Axe me again next month.

The Best of Frenemies.

I love my friends, they're my friends after all. I am sure you yourselves also are rather fond of those you call friend. Then there's acquiantances. They're nice folks, handy in a spot, you're friendly/neighbourly with them but you've rarely had them over for a drink.

I've made many good friends in City of Heroes, I've made many more passing ones as well. The first in a series of blog posts about Champions is dedicated to my frenemies.

I ended up going back to City of Heroes for two simple reasons. I couldn't afford two MMOs at the moment and I wanted to play with Shannon more than the people I rarely saw in WAR. (If ever there is US -> EU Transfers, I'd be back in a heartbeat)
There are of course names I recognise, names I love, names I can barely stand and all the flavours in between. Like a good team player, unless I honestly cannot personally stand someone, I will play with whomever. I will try reign in my exuberance (lemming behaviour) and I will play.

Now some people in City of Heroes, I respect. They're good players, or good roleplayers or simply fun to see on the global channels. However, they are the frenemy. They want to try Champions. They want to up sticks and move onto the new game, and that's perfectly fine. They want people we're both friends with to go with them, also fine. Some people will make the move, others won't bother. There'll be a few who spend time equally across heroic games. The problem is this, they want to recreate what they have here in the new game.

That's why they bother me. Instead of going into a new and virgin territory where all are once again equal before their Mods, they want to bring their baggage with them. Friends they've made, people they've snubbed without realising, the stories that they have worked on and the associated bits and pieces that come with roleplaying.

For some it will work, I will honestly say that the Force powerset in Champions is far more like what I originally envisioned City Of Heroes' Forcefield powerset to be. I could be quite happy playing there, but the character I originally created in CoH will not make the move.

Now for some, there is a sense of identity with their avatar. They may use the same name in each game they go to, and that's fine. My complaint here is the wholesale copy/paste behaviour from one game to another.

City of Heroes has life in it yet. Issue 16 is in closed beta right now and Going Rogue looms in the future. There is freshness wherever you want to make it. For any who are finding it stale at the moment I would ask. Is it stale because you've really done everything in every way with every powerset? Or is it stale because you are beholden to passing friends, people whose names you possibly don't even know but who are not evolving with their virtual space?

Moving all the same faces, places and stories into a new game will not invigorate or freshen them, not for long anyway. In the end, I think, you'll have ruined a fresh start at a new you, a new way to be with your friends and a new way to make more.

When you're given the chance to create anything, create.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Warhammer Temporal Mechanics

I love Warhammer Online. I really do. I enjoy playing it, I enjoy the setting, I enjoy the times I've had and the loot I've gotten my hands on.

I have not played in the Land of the Dead yet for two simple reasons. My graphics card died silently one night leaving me with what the motherboard cranks out and Shannon came back to City of Heroes. Given a choice between playing with her or playing in a Warband, it's no choice. Also, given the fact that no graphics card means no RvR, it's better not to play and have bad memories. Economic pressures also recently made me pick between the two games I subscribe to and for a while, I have let Warhammer expire.
Then on top of it all, time is an issue.

Recently Nic, one of the fantastic Community guys over at GOA, had a birthday. We were all out for drinks, hugs (I am told I give the best manhug in Dublin) and geekery. The WAR EU players have consistently seemed to have a better time than me, and I've never really complained about my time.

Why is that? Well... I went to the NA servers for a good reason, I stand by that reason. But in an RvR game or a PvP game, the main action will always be primetime. I can stay up for that on the weekends, but if I've got something going on elsewhere, I'm missing the lions share of the action. For once, geography and time have let me down. There are fantastic people on Phoenix Throne (Go check out The Sentinels) but I don't get nearly as much time with them as I would like. Money no object, I'd run two computers :P However such multigaming is best left to people with more money than sense.

What to do then? Well it's obvious. I'm going to keep blogging about WAR and I have my sights set on someone inside Mythic about a few things.
That and I'm going to campaign for greater server transfers. It's time I went home, it's time I asked for a way for my Dwarfs to find their way back to their native time zone and the people who will be playing when it suits me to play.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Communication Integration.

Recently people have been talking about the social networking sites like they were some sort of new thing that no one has ever seen before. Obviously they aren't but their clout and impact is growing. How many people coloured their avatars green to support the Iranian election dispute? How many Iranians themselves used Twitter to organise protests? How many people heard of the celebrity deaths on Twitter and Facebook first and the news second?

News channels are getting in on the act. Shannon watches Quest Means Business on CNN for some unfathomable reason and the man would have Twitters babies if he could. Sky News has a segment every evening based entirely around the web. Microsoft Earth and Google Earth/Maps/Streetview are being used to pad out news reports with on scene images and graphics for when a reporter hasn't yet hit the scene.

So with this ever growing trend of accepting sites like Twitter and Facebook, why are our virtual worlds not yet integrated?

I feel safe saying that Champions, for whatever reason, has a /tweet command. The only other game with integrated Out Of Game chat that I recall was The Matrix Online. Unsurprising really as it was owned by WB who of course had an AIM integration built in. You could play in Megacity 1 and still chat to people on your AOL friend list.

Now admittedly for some that will break immersion, much like EQ II's /pizza command to bring up a game browser so you could order Pizza Hut to be delivered. For others it could be a great tool, EVE as far as I recall has a built in browser so pilots can keep up on their mail and check databases etc without alt tabbing out and potentially leaving themselves vulnerable.

People talk about word of mouth press and the impact of blogging. Personally I would blog more if I could do it while in my games. If I have a few minutes between tasks and goings on, I am not inclined to log out for an idea I am forming, but if I could hit up Blogger and Wordpress while the Warband/Supergroup/Raid gets together I'd quite like it. How many friends do we all have who just don't get the online gaming thing? Now imagine when you tweet from in the game, alerting your gaming friends to something massive going on and possibly intriguing your other friends.

By all means continue to improve and enhance our virtual worlds. Make them immersive, make them fantastic. Make them somewhere we want to be. More importantly, make them work with the world we live in, the world that should always trump a game when there's something important. I could be sitting quite happily with rose coloured glasses on, but in my opinion when the two worlds don't have to compete, when they gel better, people will enjoy them more. After all, the game is by its very definition, sociable. It should be enabled further.

In the end, first kill bragging rights, free press, word of mouth advertising and positive (possibly) attention focused on your game all for the sake of "/tweet" or "/im". Why pass that up?

Obvious Cat is Obvious

If you follow me on Twitter you'll have seen that I tweeted from Champions Online.

So I can say the following happily without breaking the NDA, I think.

I'm in the Champions Beta, it can tweet.
I'm saving the rest until I check the NDA etc, I know that Syp had to ask for permission to blog about his time there so I'm going to tread lightly for now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mythic & Bioware : Mythioware

Head on over to the Warhammer Herald for one of likely many announcements to come on
the EA Mythic/Bioware Merger.

This... is going to be interesting. Where's my flame war survival suit?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So much game...

Hopefully I'll be back to blogging properly by Friday.

As a catch up, I've two quasi-static friends teams running in City of Heroes. Patch 1.3 has hit Warhammer and I've to check it out.
Oh, and to top it all off, I've recently had beta invites to three games. Two I have taken, the third was a fileplanet invite and I wasn't much bothered.

There's an awful lot to play and then I'll have plenty to say.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Woohoo!

Thanks to the blogosphere (I wish I was putting information out rather than taking it in as usual, must work on that) I too have gotten myself the nifty Scarab amulet.

So far ....
CE Retail Box Includes: The Librams of Insight, Custom Character Heads and more!
Pre-Order Includes: Rittenbach's Portable Camp and Guardian's Iolite Band
Reward: White Dwarf Includes: Custom Dwarf Head
Reward: Email Validated Includes: Title - 'The Validated'
Reward: C&C Red Alert 3 Includes: Kossar's Helm
Preview Weekend Provides access to Preview Weekend
CE Open Beta Provides access to the CE Open Beta
CE Head Start Provides access to the CE Head Start
Reward: Choppa/Slayer Custom Heads Includes: Choppa/Slayer Custom Heads
Reward: Scarab Amulet Includes: Scarab Amulet
Reward: Shroud of the Imrathepis Includes: Shroud of the Imrathepis

One day Skaven Cloak, you will be mine.
(What? CoH has badge whoring, WAR has the Tome and rewards :P)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Never one to deny a challenge

Folks, they've thrown down the gauntlet. That or dangled a carrot, you decide. What am I talking about? The Warhammer Age of Reckoning Blog Challenge.

Werit already tweeted that the fantastic and ever entertaining Tome Of Knowledge has received a package, head on over for a peek.

From the Herald.

If you want to claim your free Scarab Amulet, put your decoding hat on, because the Rise of the Tomb Kings blog challenge is coming! Over the next three weeks, Tomb King Skulls will be appearing on some of your favorite online gaming sites. Painted on these skulls are five different Cartouches. Translate any one of these and you’ll reveal an item code. If you play on a North American or Oceanic server, you can take this to the Mythic Account Center and enter it into your account. Once activated, you will receive a unique Scarab Amulet reward. This fun item summons a Scarab swarm that chitters and swirls around your feet. Remember, nothing grants e-kudos like a personalized beetle horde.

How do you translate the hieroglyphs? Well, you’ll need to search around the WAR blogosphere. Just like the Night of Murder bloody valentines, we’ve sent special packages out to US and Canadian WAR bloggers. Different blogs will get different fragments of the code. Collect the lot, and you’ll be able to translate a cartouche.

You’ll need to be quick about collecting the code. Each Cartouche will only give out 1,000 Scarab Amulets (only one per account, before you ask!). So, if you want your beetle buddies, get thee to the internet!