Friday, October 15, 2010

No more Intellectuals Please.

IP! Intellectual Properties. If you’re in the business of licensing things, man I bet you love those.

George Lucas has vast armies of people making Star Wars games. Star Trek games come out every so often (and are usually not the best). Movies get adapted to games, games get made from tv shows and there are plenty of properties out there that have been looked at for further video game exploitation.

Given that this will never ever come to pass, I have two requests.

First, no more intellectual properties please. Take a break. Try your hand at something new. Not a universe that lends itself to being turned into an MMO. Not some existing IP that you think could crack the nut that is WoW or emulate its success.

Try new things. Try new worlds. Try making something that no one has ever seen before. Right now there is the trend of taking what someone has done and emulating the crap out of it, as though that process will somehow mystically imbue your title with the same positives and line your pockets. We’ve all seen the huge buckets of money that Minecraft just made. How long until the copies come out, reasoning that a tiny iteration on an established success equals more success?`

Just because something made the splash once, it does not automatically follow that it or any other game directly modelled on it will do the same.

Secondly, as a game company… start lying to us all. I don’t mean lie about features or release dates or content. They’re all very important. Making a good, complete and completed game is vital to you, to your market and to the genre. However…. people are going gaga for or raging at Bioware because of however they currently perceive Star Wars: The Old Republic. People will always look at Mythic a certain way. Reportedly Square Enix lost $26million worth of investment because a player who had the stock didn’t like the latest installment. I personally cannot wait for The Secret World, but there are many who read as far as “Funcom” and stop listening.

So lie to me. Lie to everyone. Spin off subsidiaries and reabsorb them later or drop them if they are unsustainable. Create new companies, new names, new faces and personalities to bring us the next wave of MMOs. Don’t bring us “Bioware presents: Some Game” or “Square Enix FF 75.23”. The same name that sells your games in a single player market brings far too much drama in a massively multiplayer one.

Bring me a new game from a new company and importantly from a new and neutral starting point. Make your success stories on the back of the hard work put into the game rather than on the back of a bought in IP that someone will say you did wrong or on the back of your own reputations which may leave many demanding things that you may not ever be able to deliver.

Would it be difficult to work out who has spun off whom and for what? Probably not. However if the one thing missing from games now days is wonder, leave us wondering and with wonderful things.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This should be a tradition.

I did this well before the launch of Star Trek Online and I am doing it again. The only difference is this time I’m not (yet, if ever) in the beta.

I do not like nor am I impressed by Star Wars : The Old Republic.

I’m not hating on your game, if you are a fan. I am not bashing the company or anything. I am just totally unimpressed. If I change my tune later and become a total fanboy, feel free to call me on it.

In the meantime, until I get my blogging regions of my brain full of coffee and come back to you all, enjoy this.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Things Man Shouldn't Know

Woo! \o/

The Secret World GamesCom press embargo lifted yesterday and with that you can now read my exclusive interview with Ragnar Tornquist over at

A snippet?

It's incredibly hard to keep our mouths shut! All we want to do is show you what we've been working on for so long - but we're not far away from doing just that.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

It'll be a sh!t game, don't buy it.

Ragnar Tornquist on The Secret World

Now Live on !

Conspiracies… myths… half truths, careful lies and dark places. All of these are in The Secret World. All myths are true, for a given value. All conspiracies are being played out by the major factions, so long as it suits them.

Templar, Dragon, Illuminati. A world beneath and a game on the horizon. Whatever you know about The Secret World, game creator Ragnar Tornquist says it best on twitter.

“RagnarTornquist @RarePc No, it'll be a shit game, don't buy it. OF COURSE it's going to be a good game, worth every penny, cross my heart, etc. Peace. #TSW”

Of course he’s joking. This game is his baby and soon we will all get to witness its birth onto the AAA MMO gaming scene. If you haven’t been following the rise and reveals of The Secret World, then more than any other game before you are missing a treat. Sure there is the normal hype surrounding it. Where there are fans, there are huge expectations and opinions. Where there are fans, there are detractors and naysayers. All of that we’re used to, heck for some of us it’s how we got our start in the MMO blog scene. Hype breeds excitement, excitement breeds word of mouth and we all know what word of mouth can do for, or in darker cases to, a game.

This game though, it has been creeping around in all the dark places. It has been waiting, growing. Spinning tales and weaving webs. I speak of course of the many ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) related to The Secret World. Even if you aren’t a fan of MMOs, and if not I’d wonder why you’re reading this, it has been quite an experience.

I personally have followed the tweets of some of the unwitting souls of Kingsmouth. I have read of the Monsters of Maine and the Sanctuary Of Secrets. All of these things are being played out on the internet. Sometimes in bursts, full of action and teases. Other times subtly and over a period of time. Unlike any other game I have watched come from concept art, through the teasing trailers and into the market, The Secret World has won my adulation and interest through its mystery. Through the fact that the more I know, the more I want to. All the conspiracies and myths await, all the promises of a secret world, a hidden war and a story unlike any I personally have played with before are just ahead of me.

For people who are left looking at this entry, wanting more, expecting something other than the gushing of a proclaimed fan, there is plenty to be found. There is information close at hand and on the official game forums. Ragnar himself is answering questions every so often on The Alternate Reality Games get picked apart by a rabid and dedicated fan base on more than one occasion. Of course the best information comes from community questions on the forums themselves here, here and here.

Will it be, as Ragnar joked, a sh-oh look a kitty-t game? I for one am happy with my expectations. I think it will be every bit as deep, every bit as enthralling and mysterious as advertised. In the end, every game has fans and detractors. Every game will have nay-sayers and rabid supporters. I am going for the game whose manner and mystery caught my imagination… not with pretty graphics or insane game play. They weren’t shown yet when I first was snared by it. No, they made me imagine all the possibilities and that, the promise of the mind, is why I will follow the Templar into the darkness of Argartha. Into The Secret World.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ardy vs Guild Wars 2

My interview with some of the designers of Arena Nets Guild Wars 2 is up over at OnRPG.Com

Go check it out here!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New World, New Look, New Info.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the absolute latest information from City Of Heroes : Going Rogue.

Firstly, information on the gorgeous Nova Praetoria, the centre of Emperor Coles powerbase.

Nova Praetoria 

This city ward, considered to be the most exclusive district in all of Praetoria, houses the elite of Praetorian society: Cole’s trusted Praetors and the myriad state employees and officials who have been given the special privilege to live and work next to humankind’s savior, Emperor Marcus Cole.nova_night

From Cole Tower, the tallest building and most dominant landmark in all of Nova Praetoria, Emperor Cole can survey all that he has fought hard to protect.

In the Magisterium below, his Praetors gather for the day-to-day business in Praetoria, capital of the Empire.


Surrounding the Magisterium courtyard are the five most influential structures in Praetorian government: the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Technology, the Civic Center, the Praetoria Police Headquarters, and the Cole Transport Authority.


Statues of the Praetors stand like sentinels over the Magisterium, reminding all who visit that Cole’s trusted advisors watch over the city with constant vigilance.


But these statues pale in comparison to the glory of Emperor Cole’s likeness, which stands before his tower, hand outstretched in greeting to all who visit here. Before this colossus stands the statue of Praetor White, Praetoria’s enforcer and head of the Powers Division, Praetoria’s super-powered police force.

Where there is a city, there is a support structure and in the darkness below the gem of Nova Praetoria we have The Underground.

The Underground
The Underground is a network of tunnels that traverse the soft underbelly of Praetoria.


It was created to keep the appearance of the aboveground portion of the city unspoiled and uncluttered while the day-to-day maintenance and transportation tasks were carried out away from public view. Using the Lethe as its main artery, the tunnels follow a winding path through Nova Praetoria to Neutropolis and beyond. 

Not all is fun and games in the darkness though. Things lurk and people plot.



You’d be best not to take Nova Praetoria at face value…

(More information to come soon we hope and keep an eye on for my take on Going Rogue soon)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tinfoil Hat

Not that Tinfoil hat though it is related.

The Blizzard Entertainment Real ID idea has caused a major storm. Suffice to say, people are annoyed (or amused).

So my little tinfoil wrapped titbit is a question. Given that Blizzard is held up on a pedestal and shown to be the company to watch when making an MMO, the company to emulate and the ones who set all sorts of trends… they’re obviously capable of judging how people will react to any given idea to a fair degree.

So if they aren’t going back on Real ID, why are they going forward? I don’t think it’s merely to clean up their forums.

All that data, accessible… that has got to be a marketers wet dream.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Real World Interlude


This entry deals with real world news, so if you’re avoiding all  that nonsense, skip this one.

Anna Chapman is my hero of the hour. But! But but but. Let me explain that statement.

Pictured to the right is Ms Chapman.

The news says she is a suspected Russian spy.


Now, I’m not anti America and supporting a spy. I am geeking out over something that Sky News put in my head. When they broke the story, over and over they said it was like a real life spy novel. Personally I didn’t see it. Sure there is a ring of suspects and I have no real idea what they have or have not done. However, when it came to them putting a face to them, the picture shown here is the one they splashed on tv.

Now it’s a real life spy story. Sure the plot is a little lame, but hey, you’ve given us a Bond Girl.

What’s not to love?

Monday, June 28, 2010


This little tidbit has come to my attention.

Will I be able to transfer to North American servers immediately?
◦We do
have plans to allow European customers to transfer to and from our North
American servers. However, this option will not be available at the time of

Sure I went back to WAR for a bit with Sareini but, in reality, I played maybe two or three days. I'm busy with things at home and in other games. That said, the ability to take the characters I still love, the goodies I managed to grab up (Kossars Helm from C&C RA3, Scarabs from codes etc) and move it all over to the timezone I actually live in? Fantastic!

That may well get me back. No promises of course... but it'd be an option to play again when I know there'd be major action going on.

Sorry for GOA, but I'll be keeping an eye on this.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Proof of the pudding

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

I previewed Lego Universe for OnRPG here a while back. Keep in mind, the preview was based on early early closed beta stuff. Even on the back of that, I now have my pre-order ordered.

Even if Lego isn't your thing, trust me, this is a gift to get.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Success is commemorated. Failure merely remembered.

Massively have a wonderful interview with Mark Downie from Vigil on Warhammer 40,000.

One good quote I like.

All that we've seen in the trailer is actual gameplay footage?
Mark: Absolutely.

Mark goes on to talk about the work they’re doing with Games Workshop in making the setting properly Warhammer as well as the lovely bonus of

Mark: Pretty much anything that gets added into the 40k universe in our MMO will get added to the canon, part of the war, and will receive the blessing of Games Workshop.

Head on over to the interview to check it out and keep an eye on where soon I will be going through the background, the build up and the battle that is Warhammer 40,000 Dark Millennium.

(Bonus Fluff Theory: In the closing days of the 41st millennium the Emperors Golden Throne had started to fail. A Q&A I had one Games Day with Sandy Mitchell of the Ciaphas Cain series mentioned that GW was holding up the story for now, letting it all get to the same point. If the game creates canon, is this Dark Millennium the opening chapter of the 42nd and the greatest upheaval The Imperium has ever known? Exciting prospect.)

Also you know, while the Imperium quotes are great for blog titles, it makes everything sound very grimdark. Nor is it necessarily a commentary on Warhammer: Age of Reckoning.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blind faith is a just cause. (WH40K)

In his Glorious Majesty’s realm, blind faith is a just cause. Granted that says an awful awful lot about the world of the Imperium.

A quick look at my blog list this morning got me a few links. On the one hand we have Shadow-War and We Fly Spitfires on the cautious but positive view. On the other we have Syncaine in his crusade against all things WoW taking a snarky tack, along with The War Realm being unimpressed.

To each their own really. Syncaine insists that Dark Millennium doesn’t look dark and gloomy enough and is WoW in the future. War Realm has come down on the side of the trailer being CGI and thus useless (coughOldRepubliccough).

They may have a point. Perhaps games have been unfairly influenced out of all proportion by World of Warcraft. At the same time maybe that’s because the influences weren’t all negative. Maybe the trailer doesn’t give everything you want to know, but hey that to me looked pretty damn slick and THQ did all its cinematics in the engine for Dawn of War. If they were going the CGI route full of pretty and no substance, they could have gone further.

Me? I’m all for it. We’ve gone from what was just a bullet point on a THQ statement, through small bits of concept art into a trailer that shows me some pretty exciting things. Maybe Syncaine is right and the Kopta isn’t piloted and is more like WoWs griffins. Maybe there will be a ridiculous amount of PvE questing. Maybe all the naysayers will be right on the money and it will be World of Warhammercraft 40k.

Or maybe… just maybe it’s as good as it looks. Given the option of being negative or being an mmo blogger… I’m going to have to go with the unbridled out of proportion optimism. I have faith in Vigil Games and THQ. I am not yet ready to call for the Exterminatus on the Dark Millennium.

Blogging or living in the grim darkness of the far future, blind faith is a just cause.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Dark Millennium

No waiting. Watch now!

Warhammer 40K: Dark Millennium Online!

A quick breakdown of what I’ve made out.


  • The Imperium
  • Chaos
  • Orks

Possible Player Characters

Some other things that stick out from the video.

That’s gameplay footage that is! Mmmm gameplay.

There’s something that looks suspiciously like an Eldar Farseer going up against the Chaos Dreadnaut as the music climaxes.

Finally, the means of getting around looks interesting. I saw Space Marine bikes (and of course Chaos bikes), Trukks and Koptas. Flying mounts as well as the purely mundane? Yes please.

The quick run down of things you will not see? Kroot, Tau, Necrons (my favourites), Tyranids and Dark Eldar. Does that mean they aren’t there at all? I couldn’t say. Perhaps they will be NPC factions, perhaps they are for later inclusion or expansions. For all the talk of Warhammer Age of Reckoning needing a third faction, I don’t think a 7+ way war in the 41st Millennium is particularly viable, especially given some of the omnicidal armies.

In conclusion for this first bit, it’s good to be a 40K fan. THQ, having proved themselves more than capable of capturing the feel of the universe in the Dawn Of War series, are bringing us both Dark Millennium and Space Marine. On top of that we have the Ultramarines movie moving forward.

There is only one final thing I need to know from that video…. who do I have to kill to become a Princeps and drive the Titan?

Missed Calling

Why is BioWare making an MMO?

Sure there is all the PR marketing hype. Sure there are the legions of Knights of the Old Republic fans who are salivating over the IP. Sure I suppose it’ll be a very good game.

But why bother making a game when they would be better suited shaming George Lucas and making an epic movie?

If you haven’t yet seen it, that link is for the Star Wars : The Old Republic “Hope” trailer. Seriously EA/BioWare, you can tell me all you want about how many voice actors you’re going to have, how big the game is going to be and all of that but in my mind, you’re better spent on crafting us a different sort of entertainment.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Warhammers Black Ops

Apparently the Skaven may or may not be coming. Who knows? It's all rumours at the moment.

I've talked about Skaven before and Planetside.
So my quick two cents.

Skaven Classes!
  • Grey Seer - Equivalent to Archmage and Shaman. Variously imbibing Warpstone and expelling it to weave spells.


  • Plague Monk - Equivalent to Rune Priest and Zealot (this one is Sareinis)
  • Warpfire Cannon Skaven - Equivalent to Engineer or Magus. Guns ho!
  • Assassain - Witch Elves and Witch Hunters suddenly find sneaky rats butting in.
  • Rat Ogre Tamer - White Lions and Squig Herders.

But one race alone wouldn't properly shake up RvR, it'd have to be an entire faction. Unless you go the Planetside Black Ops route.

If Skaven do make an appearance and exist primarily to foul up the plans of everyone else...well that's Skaven-y and perfectly fine by me.


I’ve only told you like 200 times or some such but my first MMO was Earth & Beyond. This is important because it came out in 2002 and I played it on a 56k modem which thankfully was on one of the first packages in Ireland to offer flat rate unlimited off peak internet.

That was my first foray into the massively multiplayer world and fortunately or unfortunately it was a sci-fi space game. I never had the really old school experiences.

Partially, I never had them because I never heard of MMO gaming until poking around Westwoods site for information on Command and Conquer. Partially I never had them because even if I had discovered Dark Age of Camelot or Everquest at the time they were new I wouldn’t have been able to afford the phone bills. Or my parents wouldn’t have if I am honest.

Why am I dragging these back into the light of day? Well someone else has.

Sure I can understand intellectually that some of those old school mechanics died because they were a pain. Or perhaps they were a barrier to higher subscriptions. Maybe they were simply boring and are just looked on fondly because they are old.

Sure I know that if the games of tomorrow were still being cranked out like the games of that many yesterdays there’d be uproar. But still… so much in the gaming blogosphere is hype. Nostalgia is a hype all of its own and I have to say I can appreciate the retro look, the bygone ways and yesteryears feel.

Would I like to give it a spin? Sure. Though I’ll have to settle for fond remembrances from others passed on which in the end condense all those years of gaming to just the best bits.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Lord of the Rings Online goes F2P

Everyone is talking about it. Seriously. This is but a drop in the ocean but Lord of The Rings Online will be going free to play this summer.

Lifetime Subscribers will according to someone on twitter be getting free VIP for life.

So if you’ve never before followed in the footsteps of the Fellowship, will this shift be enough to get you in for elevenses?

Monday, May 31, 2010


Shannon and I are off on a holiday.

Not an actual holiday mind you, just a break from Paragon City. For whatever reason (I suspect a Nemesis plot) Shannon is feeling like a break from the City of Heroes and so in finest “WoW Tourist” (Thanks Syncaine for the now old term even if we’ve never played WoW) tradition, we’re off on a holiday.

It is just a temporary break though given that Going Rogue is right around the corner. At most we’ll be away for a month. Of course it becomes complicated when we factor in Shannons computer having died recently and the replacement being … well… crap. No fancy high end graphics games for her and therefore for us.

So options appear to be

  • Allods Online (Suggested to her by OnRPG awesome guy Nic)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online (I wont let it go)
  • Anarchy Online (Blame Sareini)
  • Something else (This is what the comments section is for)

So. Any suggestions? Preferences? Cautionary tales?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To Everything There Is A Season

I have never really had experiences with big guilds. I dabble in many many games but my home for the majority of my MMO life has been the Virtue server of City of Heroes.

City of Heroes is a reasonably casual game. You can hop on to either side, grab a random mission from the Police Radio or Newspaper (assuming you don’t have a contact with missions) and hammer it out quickly. Design aspects were taken and further expanded upon in Cryptics Champions Online and to an extent Star Trek Online. As a result of this casual nature, I have never had the experience I hear of with World of Warcraft guilds where courting them is a multiple week long process. I never really had much interaction with many guilds in Warhammer either. The one that I did join which wasn’t just a collection of City Of Heroes friends merely asked that I play with them a lot rather than a little. Given that more often than not I no longer played with friends at that time I had no problem throwing my various alts in.

However recently in City of Heroes old players have come back from the wilds of Champions Online and here is where I get to the point.

There once was a group. I shan’t name it, though anyone who knows me can guess it, so as not to come across as bashing anyone. I had a wonderful time in the group and made many friends. Some of them persist to this day, some of them I have had the fortune of meeting in person. The group was active, had allies, had stories and had fun. With so many people back in those heady days coming and going in City of Heroes there was a vibrance to the Supergroup. People came and people went but the core of what the roleplay group was remained.

As time passes though, so too do people. Eventually the group withered and died. There were brave attempts at restarting it to be sure. There were good ideas and good intentions but in the end, if no one can give the time to the group, the group does not exist. That is the core of my belief regarding Supergroups. Perhaps with hardcore guilds where it takes months to gain entry, where they are a heavy investment in time, money and effort, there is a greater sense of permanence to the guild. Perhaps in those cases it is about the tools and utility of the guild rather than the people. As I said, I don’t know having had no experience. Supergroups though are all about the people. In a casual game with so many coming and going and having so many faces (ahhh altitis, my bane) the time between a group being one you remember fondly and one being filled with strangers who have little link to the original ideals can be quite small.

In the end the casual nature of the game contributed to the death of the group. Some older hands retried it in Champions Online and it seems it has either diverged from the memory of the original or the game itself does not hold the interest of everyone. Why do I say this? Well those same souls are back in Paragon City and trying once more to recreate the group. The name was never the group. The ideals or roleplay reasons for it were never the group. The group was made and immortalised in peoples memories by the people themselves. They’ve moved on, the groups season turned. I just hope that in trying to bring it back again, people do not tarnish their memories (surely rosily coloured by nostalgia at this point) of what they had by the imitations attempted.

They say you can’t cross the same bridge twice because of the water flowing beneath. I suppose you can’t join the same casual dream twice either.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Worthy and On Topic

It is 11.40am GMT on the 11th of May right now. Minus five for the east coast and minus 8 for west coast.

You have 9 hours and 20 minutes remaining to consider the Humble Indie Bundle.

Basically it’s five (really six with the bonus contribution) indie games with no DRM and available on Windows, Linux or Mac for whatever you want to pay.

In fact here’s what they say themselves.

The Humble Indie Bundle is a unique kind of bundle that we are trying out.

Pay what you want. If you bought these five games separately, it would cost around $80 but we're letting you set the price!

All of the games work great on Mac, Windows, and Linux. We didn't want to leave anyone out.

There is no middle-man. You can rest assured that 100% of your purchase goes directly to the developers and non-profits as you specify (minus credit card fees).

We don't use DRM. When you buy these games, they are yours. Feel free to play them without an internet connection, back them up, and install them on all of your Macs and PCs freely.

Your contribution supports the amazing Child's Play charity and Electronic Frontier Foundation. By default, the amount is split equally between the seven participants (including Child's Play and EFF), but you can tweak the split any way you'd like.

And now, thanks to a humble donation from Amanita Design: all contributors are given a free copy of Samorost 2!


I don’t know if I’ll play any of them myself. In fact I’m not sure I have the time to even install any but I contributed all the same. Why? Well deals like this are too good to pass up and really they’ve sweetened the entire deal by letting you pick if you are giving money to just the developers, Childs Play and the EFF only or split across all of them.

How often do you get to be simultaneously charitable and snag an entertainment deal for literally whatever price you name?

I’d hurry if I were you.

Previews, Reviews and Writing

Okay let’s get back into the swing of things.

First thing I should mention is that I have in the past had some communication from PR companies asking me to preview or review games. Sadly the email address you can get on my profile tends to be ignored more often than not. If you have contacted me in the past or intend to in the future, I have taken steps to keep up with that email address better. Also if I may, I would suggest you contact the fantastic editors over at for p/reviews as well. Sure it may not be me who ends up getting the particular assignment but give them a shout and if you still want blogger coverage as well, drop me a line.

Second while they update less frequently than I, if you have an interest in fantasy literature or reading in general, check out

Finally things of mine have started going up over at OnRpg and there’s more in the pipeline. For here though, to get my lazy butt back into the blogging groove I’ll take suggestions on something you want me to natter about. Drop a comment and assuming you’re not trying to torture me (Terry, I’m watching you) we’ll see what happens.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I'm not dead.

Been ill, been travelling and been busy with technomancy. Hopefully blogging will follow soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Woohoo! I'm up at OnRPG specifically my City of Heroes review. It's my first, be gentle.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Well folks, it’s now official. I’ve been hired by to write for them. God only knows what they did to deserve me heh.

Still if you want to pop by the Forums and threaten me with GBH feel free. I’ll still be blogging here of course and will make mention when there’s a new and interesting article up.

Or you could follow the twitter. OnRPG Twitter

My first piece will be going up soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

City of Heroes Kinetic Melee

Thanks to Quest for the link.

Enjoy! (I agree with the guy in the background, “I love you” )

Saturday, March 27, 2010

City Of Heroes PAX East

All of the following is copied from as they live blogged the CoH PAX East panel.

Some fantastic information in it and I will likely throw up a digest soon. Enjoy! I sure as heck did.

11:22  Thanks for joining us for NCSoft's panel on Superheroic MMOs
The panelists are Melissa Bianco, Lead Designer 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:22 
11:22  Matt Miller, Lead Systems Designer 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:22 
11:23  David Nakayama, Lead Artist 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:23 
11:23  Eric Johnsen, Art Producer 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:23 
11:23  EM Stock, Studio Community Lead 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:23 
11:26  The panel kicks off a few minutes early with EM Stock introducing the panelists. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:26 
11:27  The panel plans to talk about the start with Cryptic Studios, the current Paragon team, and the future of the franchise. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:27 
11:27  Jesse Caceres, Producer of the game was added to the panel in the stead of Eric Johnsen. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:27 
11:28  The Cryptic Years was the first topic, with Caceres talking about the origins of the game. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:28 
11:28  City of Heroes launched April 28th, 2004, almost six years ago. City of Villains then launched about 18 months later. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:28 
11:28  They've also published 10 free expansions, and six paid ones. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:28 
11:29  There are four members of the launch team that stayed with Paragon Studios and still work on the game, including Miler and Bianco 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:29 
11:30  When NC Soft bought the CoH license and founded Paragon Studios in November 2007, they offered the entire team jobs, and everyone accepted. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:30 
11:31  Correction: They then released 6 expansions so far, with a seventh on the way, also all free. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:31 
11:31  Caceres asked, "How do we keep things fresh?" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:31 
11:32  He then showed a slide that listed about 60 things that have been added to the game, including Capes/Auras, Power Customization, and Weapon Customization. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:32 
11:32  Caceres mentioned that NC Soft has been great at backing them on adding anything they want to the game, and giving them the resources to do. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:32 
11:33  Level Pacting, where you can help level up your friends even when they're not online was a major innovation they were excited to bring in. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:33 
11:33  Mission Architect, where players can create their own content for the game, is another major way that they keep things fresh for long-time and new players alike. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:33 
11:34  Issue 17: Dark Mirror, the new expansion is next. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:34 
11:34  Ultra Mode is a massive across-the-board graphical enhancement for City of Heroes that will be FREE with Issue 17. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:34 
11:35  Nakayama explained how it will work in broad strokes to make the game look a lot better, and mentioned some specific new features 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:35 
11:35  Real time shadows, relevant to the time of day, are cast now by all objects and characters. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:35 
11:36  Planar and cubemap reflections; Windows, water, and reflective materials, including metallic armor and costume pieces will reflect in real time 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:36 
11:37  "If you fly by a reflective window, you'll see your character reflected" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:37 
11:37  Screen Space Ambient Occlusion, recessed corners and dark spaces gain more realistic lighting 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:37 
11:37  "Issue 17 is just the beginning" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:37 
11:38  Issue 17 will also have new content, including new story arcs for heroes and villains 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:38 
11:38  Bianco mentioned also that they revamped the Positron Task Force 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:38 
11:39  They split it in half to make it "not suck," said Bianco 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:39 
11:39  New Mission Architect features were added, including new more dynamic XP options 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:39 
11:40  Tails now move, you can send image attachments inside the in-game mail. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:40 
11:40  And now there are Doppelgangers, enemies that are yourself! 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:40 
11:41  They can have a color swap, or have the same exact costume, and every character or party will have their own different missions with doppelgangers 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:41 
11:42  The CoH comic from Top Cow was mentioned, and issues of the comic give hints to new features in the game. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:42 
11:42  Going Rogue is the NEXT next expansion, the first paid one since City of Villains. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:42 
11:42  New 1 to 20 content tells a cohesive storyline 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:42 
11:43  Caceres said this will be the perfect time to jump in for new players as they'll have "nothing more to complain about!" to laughs from the other panelists. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:43 
11:43  You'll start as a Praetorian, a loyalist or a rogue; not a hero or a villain though 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:43 
11:44  Praetoria is an alternate-Earth rebuilt after the defeat of Hamidon 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:44 
11:44  The entire world was built with "Ultra Mode" in mind, and has buildings and objects made to make it look better than ever. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:44 
11:44  There are Brand-new zones, Nova Praetoria, Imperial City, Neutropolis, and The Underground 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:44 
11:45  Nova is the base of operations to Emperor Cole 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:45 
11:45  Imperial is a NYC style city, Neutropolis is much more technology-enhanced of an area 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:45 
11:46  There are also all-new enemy groups 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:46 
11:46  The Praetoria Police Department will look familiar to fans of Top Ten, a super-powered police department 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:46 
11:46  The Seers are thought-police 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:46 
11:47  The Resistance can either be your allies or your enemies, depending on if you choose to be a Loyalist or a member of the group 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:47 
11:47  Praetorian Clockwork are "helper droids" that maintain the cities, but also have massive offensive capabilities 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:47 
11:48  the Syndicate is a new, more powerful organized crime group 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:48 
11:48  The Ghouls stay mostly in the underground, and it's a mystery how they were created 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:48 
11:48  There's also another enemy who will be revealed this sumemr 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:48 
11:48  The Going Rogue System starts at level 20 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:48 
11:49  You can change from being a hero to a villain or vice-versa 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:49 
11:49  It's a gradual progression. "Hero falling from grace, becoming a vigilante then eventually a villain" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:49 
11:49  Villains become Rogue "A Han Solo type" then becomes a hero 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:49 
11:50  NEW POWERSETS (here you go, Jack!) 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:50 
11:50  Dual Pistols, are first up; if you pre-purchase the expansion, you get those RIGHT NOW 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:50 
11:51  Demon Summoning is next up 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:51 
11:52  it will hit servers with Issue 17, again for pre-purchasers. A world premiere of the video was shown, we'll have it for you on Monday on the site, as well. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:52 
11:52  Demons themselves will have varying powers 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:52 
11:52  Flaming whip attacks are added for the masters too 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:52 
11:52  TWO more powersets as well! 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:52 
11:53  first there was a joke of "Clown Summoning" showing an image of Pennywise from IT 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:53 
11:53  for real now 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:53 
11:53  Kinetic Melee is added for Stalkers, Brutes, Scrappers, and Tankers 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:53 
11:53  Electric Control for controllers and dominators 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:53 
11:54  All ten basic archetypes get a new powerset with this expansion 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:54 
11:54  Well have hands-on with a closed beta of Going Rogue for you in the next couple of weeks. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:54 
11:55  A video was shown of Kinetic Melee, and screenshots of Electric Control, which we'll also have for you early next week 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:55 
11:55  ISSUE 19: INCARNATES is announced next 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:55 
11:56  All the details will come after Going Rogue 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:56 
11:56  Incarnate System will be 10 Incarnate levels 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:56 
11:56  the first level will be available in Going Rogue, along with new incarnate abilities 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:56 
11:56  Issue 19 will bring 9 more levels and more abilities 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:56 
11:57  New Rewards, new Zone Events, and the "End Game system" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:57 
11:57  Going Rogue will be required to play the End Game system 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:57 
11:57  Q&A Started next, with Em starting things 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:57 
11:58  She asked Jesse for Paragon's general philosophy of how to keep the game fresh 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:58 
11:59  Jesse: "We want to continue to build on systems and listen to YOU to help continue to grow and stay the #1 superhero MMO" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:59 
11:59  Q: When was Going Rogue born as a concept? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 11:59 
12:00  Jesse: It was originally going to launch with "Issue 6" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:00 
12:00  But they werent happy with the level they were able to bring it to, so delayed it until technology got there. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:00 
12:00  David talked a bit more about Praetoria, which will include all glass facades 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:00 
12:01  "We're trying to tell the design story better, everything is very specifically keyed to the zone it is in" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:01 
12:01  Q: Favorite additions to the game since launch? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:01 
12:01  David: ULTRA MODE! 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:01 
12:02  Matt: Going Rogue system, a lot of fun, especially for level 50s 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:02 
12:02  Melissa: Praetoria, being that she built it from ground up; "you won't recognize this is City of Heroes visually" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:02 
12:03  Caceres: "The Flashback system" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:03 
12:04  Q: Is Hamodon contained or defeated? and will we ever see him? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:04 
12:04  A: he is contained, but you won't see him, at least not yet 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:04 
12:05  Q: Any plans for PvP getting some changes? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:05 
12:06  A: It is something on the slate, but it will be a couple of Issues from now. Base Raids, Items of Power are also planned on being repurposed but fixed. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:06 
12:06  Q: With Going Rogue, how will heroes and villains markets work? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:06 
12:07  A: They won't be merged, but individual problems will be addressed for characters that are switching. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:07 
12:09  The next fan had a question about pay models, and how they decided to do the subscription model they use 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:09 
12:10  Miller explained that NCSoft has experimented with several business models for their different games, and this one fits this specific game; it's just behind-the-scenes business decisions to make sure they're keeping the quality levels high 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:10 
12:11  Q: With supergroups, how will the new alignment system with members deciding to go rogue affect the supergroups? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:11 
12:11  A: If you switch sides, you get temporarily removed from your group; if you switch back, you're back with all your prestige included. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:11 
12:13  You MAY be able to join a villain group along with a hero group, but they're not sure yet. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:13 
12:13  Q: Any plans to revisit old hazard zones? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:13 
12:14  Bianco Yes, they do revisit sometimes, but only when it makes sense; they like creating new one a lot more. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:14 
12:14  Q: Will difficulty go up with Going Rogue? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:14 
12:14  A: Not as much in Going Rogue, but "you'll like the Incarnate System" 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:14 
12:15  Issue 17 will change Defenders inherent system to make them solo better 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:15 
12:17  Storylines that mentioned praetoria will get updated in Issue 19 to reflect the events that happen in Praetoria between now and then. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:17 
12:17  Energizing Ion, and other fans wondering about why no Market Merge, they did say that there are reasons with database issues that would create problems. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:17 
12:18  Q: Any plans for other games set in the City of Heroes universe, like single-player games? 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:18 
12:19  A: We can't comment on future plans other than what we've talked about here. 

Saturday March 27, 2010 12:19 
12:20 More maps ARE coming with Issue 17 and with Going Rogue for mission architect, though they couldn't specify an exact amount.
Saturday March 27, 2010 12:20 
12:22 there are other new powersets "on the whiteboard" that will make it into future expansions, including staff use
Saturday March 27, 2010 12:22 
12:25 That's all for now, folks! If you didn't get your question answered, never fear, we'll be doing an extensive interview with the dev team soon. Thanks for reading! 

Link above will take you to the original article and thanks again to for covering it.

(Disclaimer for safety, none of that above is my reporting)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dark Demons Cry Very Bloody Loud

Dark Days Are Coming. The signs and portents have been littered around the internet for some time. ARGs dedicated to The Secret World (I know Sareini and I are waiting to hear what will happen to the current residents of Kingsmouth and the Monsters of Maine blog).

When the embargo lifted I was quite pleased with everything I heard coming out of the GDC. Yesterday as I got home, there was a further treat with the Secret World trailer.

I will try organise more coherent thoughts about it all but for now we’re going to go with the good old fashioned bullet point system.

  • I love the sound of the skill setup. It allows for flexibility and experimentation and they’re working on a “Respec” in pre-alpha instead of waiting. (Looking at you Cryptic.)
  • The Cthulloid makes the most awesome sound. I want to kill it.
  • The cinematic sound promising. Star Wars TOR will be fully voiced true, but I like the idea of each mission being made a little special and epic.
  • Dark Days Are Coming, but they are not yet here. Still, that means I can keep up with the ARGs.
  • The trailer voice over lady (from the Meet the Illuminati video) has a great voice for the sort of atmosphere they’re aiming for. So long as nothing gets NARM we’ll be okay.

More thoughts as I have them and manage to get time to put them down.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Information Permeation

The Patron Saint of iPhone cannot be without it and in fact wrote a book on it. A close friend of mine makes it sing (not literally, though I’m sure there’s an app) in her hands.

Fallen Earth, EVE, Champions Online and many more all look to include it.

The iPhone is a wonderful device that has an app for practically everything running, in the works or being dreamed up. I’ve seen people tackle tough business with them. I’ve seen people manage social lives across several networks with them. I’ve seen them used for status, used for silly games, used for managing life.

Then I saw this.

It really came home to me then that for all the apps, abilities and adaptability of the iPhone, I hate it.

This isn’t a Mac/PC thing or a Geek vs. Style thing. It’s a simple matter of information permeation. I use Twitter while in the office and at home. This has served me well in making friends, keeping abreast of blogging and in the industry I work. Knowing anything about Twitter while working in Market Research (even if I am the monkey) is gold. I use Trillian at home to tie together two MSN accounts, a Yahoo that I no longer use nearly as much, an AIM that I never really understood why I had and IRC networks. I blog on blogger, I blog on Wordpress (when not lazy) and I have Facebook and other social sites. For all intents and purposes, I am almost always connected.

That all said, I enjoy my commute home where unless someone rings me in a desperate rush, I can read my book and be away from the wired world. I enjoy my lazy weekend mornings where until I turn on the computer, none of you are in my home and the greater world doesn’t exist. I do love the internet and I’ve met many wonderful people online and in person due to it. I do love being able to blog, to search for numbers when I need them and otherwise worship at the altar of Google. I just also like time to myself.

This is in fact less about the iPhone itself, though such a target it is, and more about any device that ties me more to the internet. You could change it to Palm Pré or Google Nexus One or the Droid with the only difference being that my stories are incorrect.

Someone upstairs in work is considering getting a new phone. I’ll be the one who has to set it up, iron out any problems and be ready with a quick tutorial. I dread the day where they hatch the plan of giving me one. Scarybooster wrote a NaNoWriMo book on his iPhone and with the death of his computer it is his digital umbilical keeping him in touch with the wider world and the weight of information flying through the airwaves.

For me, given how I’d be compelled to make the best use of the device for work and home, it’d not be a digital umbilical but a digital noose. Goodbye problem solving or basic memory, hello iPhone and whatever app I’d need for that.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I called it.

It’s been busy here, hence the infrequent blogging. Up and downs but on the whole it’s getting better.

Of course reading other blogs give me gems like this.

Suffice to say there’s all sorts of goings on over at Cryptic, Atari and with Star Trek Online.

I would just like to remind everyone, I called it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Overactive Imagination

Yesterday Shannon told me she had "badish" news. Turns out she needs a new chair. Nothings wrong with the old one, it's just not good for her back. This only rates as "badish" due to well... money.

"So what?" you may ask. I agree, it's a little detail. However, at the time Shannon took forever to tell me this "badish" news. There were tangents and then quibbles over how bad it really was. I didn't care, I just wanted to know. My mind was coming up with all the horrible scenarios it could. Is it really not bad or is it in fact a whole lot worse than advertised?

Not knowing is the worst thing. When you know what a problem is there at least exists the possibility of planning for it, facing it or running away like a little girl.

Not knowing in an MMO context is also powerful. I didn't know much of Cryptics plans for Star Trek bar that it was Cryptic and my mind ran away with the possibilities. It was also proven right (sadly) in many of them. I don't know a whole lot about The Secret World beyond that I want it and again, my mind is dancing with what may be.

However recently I've noticed fewer games doing that to me, at least in an online context. C&C 4? I'm thrilled. WoW Cataclysm? Meh. Despite what it could mean for the genre. Sword of the Stars 2? Woo! Allods? I haven't a clue what that's all about. Am I getting crankier and more insular as I get older? Am I more concerned about solo or casual experiences where I can do my own thing despite all the friends and connections I've made through MMOs?

Or is it simply there's not enough wonder in the genre at the moment? Of course everyone's taste is different. What has me fascinated by The Secret World may not work for someone else and they'll instead be salivating over FF14. When I first saw online games, they were mysterious things to me. Ireland was way behind the times as far as online connectivity went. These persistent worlds where anything could happen seemed like a little slice of gaming nirvana, Christmas and my birthday all in one package that I'd get every day.
Now though when people are looking at games it seems to either be "This is <X Game> with features lifted from <Y & Z with some poorly done -i>"  or "This is <A Studio>'s 2nd/3rd/4th/5th MMO with <overdone or rather rubbish signature trademark>".

Right now The Secret World is giving me what Warhammer gave me, what Warhammer 40k will give me and what my other games did. It is giving my mind something to run away with. To imagine the vistas that lay before me, even if the reality is somewhat lacking in the end. I will always treasure the run up to Warhammer for the excitement of the time and the bloggers I met.

It may turn out that The Secret World suffers, or has a bad launch (seriously Funcom, prove people wrong this time), or is simply crap. Either way for now I'm 16 again, seeing those unspoiled unknown worlds laid before me and happy with what may be.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Games are Competitions.

A little under 13 months ago I paid a visit to my old Primary school (that's Elementary for most of you). I needed my Confirmation certificate from the Church parish and they share links. During the visit, Shannon and I wandered through the yard and into the school so I could show her where I was educated as a wee boy. On the way back out and over to the Church we were surrounded by boys from 4-12 years old.
Kids were screaming happily, some were chasing one another, others were playing marbles; more still were playing games that I couldn't begin to guess at. It was chaos, but it was happy chaos.
Shannon, as far as I recall, asked me how anyone makes any sense out of the games and what was going on. The only answer I could give was that it makes sense to the kids at the time.

They knew if they were racing and against whom. They knew whatever the latest iterations of schoolyard marbles rules were. They knew the rules of this chasing game, that hide and seek game and of all the other games that were lost on me, having grown up and no longer being the sort of person to play in a schoolyard and the type of person who thought a half hour was an eternity in which to have fun.

That's not entirely true though if I play MMOs. They are the playground I long for when I am working. Not to the exclusion of life of course, but while the schoolyard was a small slice of Heaven when you were in classes, MMOs are my escapism from work.

Why the personal anecdote? Well Seph and I, you may know him or just recognise the name from the previous post, occasionally take part in that great past time of all MMO players. Armchair developer. We toss around ideas and of course, ideal game designs that may or may not ever see the light of day. In doing so I've begun to think about combat and competition.

Take Star Trek for a moment, it appears to be and is reported as having precious little but combat and FedEx missions (with the occasional memory game in lieu of diplomacy). Even so, it launched properly yesterday and likely by the end of the week we'll see it reported that someone has reached the skill/level cap. There'll be those that complain that the Rear Admiral blew through content and lessened the game for themselves by rushing. There'll be those who take any utterance from the cap as gold and proclaim that there are either greener pastures or desolate wastelands awaiting everyone if they get past the next arbitrary level. In the end though, one thing is apparent. He wasn't playing the same game as you. Oh, you may both be in Star Trek, but he was racing while you're playing chasing with Klingons or marbles with supply missions. If the game doesn't lend itself to a schoolyard though, we've a problem.

Most "games" are about competition. Who is the fastest, the strongest, the richest, the most skilled, the most adorned or adored? Healthy competition is good, but of course there will always be cheaters or those who suffer a lack of ability in certain areas. Competition can equate to combat, but it has to be combat in all areas. Financial, physical, social. Sandbox worlds do call back to our childhood where you could race in the yard today and chase or be chased tomorrow. Where the game was what you felt like doing and took pleasure from, even if no one else in the screaming mob was necessarily playing the same game with you or at all. The games we play need to promote the competition in all its forms and be flexible in the rule set.

Further to this, I think GMs should get more chances to interact. If not them, then there should be more dedicated community teams. Someone needs to police the schoolyard and it always falls to volunteer parents where I am. They keep an eye and solve the disputes. The cheating, the fighting, the scraped knee from a fall; all these fall under their remit. GMs should walk amongst us as giants and have a chance to see the community live instead of just deal with our broken moments.

Finally though, we all learn to play our games as children. Maybe some of you now prefer a more cerebral approach to entertainment. Others will enjoy the mindless grind or chaotic nonsensical battle. No matter how you prefer to be entertained, you want to be entertained. The competitions that our games inspire should be nurtured and promoted. When I played Planetside, I played an Infiltration Armour character. I didn't play to win the war for the Vanu every day. I didn't even necessarily follow the flow of the battle most times. I played for the heart pounding excitement of being chased by a Dark lighting MAX and for the thrill of sneaking past fortified placed. I loved to test myself and play with others. No matter the flaws or virtues of the game, I will always love it for that one simple fact.

Winning didn't matter, the rules were my own and sometimes I was the only one playing my game in that massive world at war. What did matter was I got to go to the yard and I got to play.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Morning Snark

I promise I'll blog properly later, but here's some morning snark from my friend Seph, intially about Star Trek Online, finishing with Cryptic.

Seph: snrk
  God, that's going to be a trainwreck of epic proportions.
Ardy: Like you wouldnt believe.
  Never did get your take on the Cryptic Kitchen sink link
Seph: A change of that magnitude is like ED 2.0.
And seriously, an expansion pack ALREADY?
Ardy: No no, a single zone
Seph: That you have to pay for.
Ardy: That you have to buy, even if you're a lifetimer. In the 37-40 band where they've a huge lack of content (Lemuria is 34-40 and the kitchen sink patch was supposed to fix the lag, made the high level content even less accessible)
Seph: ...
Do... do they have brains? Common sense? Trains of thought? Because I'm sure that a platoon of dead babies would make better business choices than this, at this rate.
  Yes. Dead babies.
Ardy: They have the unholy fusion of Bill Roper and Jack Emmert.
Ardy: XD
Seph: THAN, TOO.
Ardy: So blogging this

Seph:  But, uhhh... yeah.
Not all that smart of a move, really.
From a strictly-business perspective?  I get it.  From a game developer perspective, they're seemingly taking every bad PR move they can.
I honestly have heard very little good press about CO in some time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Star Champions Online Trek off the Starboard Bow

Originally as this entry formed in my thinking meats, I was simply going to do a counterpoint to Syps Six Reasons why he is excited for Star Trek Online. Then as I sat down earlier with a coffee in hand, I caught up on my Massively. Specifically the Kitchen Sink patch.

We’ll deal with Star Trek and come back to Champions. Syp gives his own personal points why he is excited for the game. If you are at all interested in the game or even on the fence, go over and see what he has to say. It may well swing you in the games favour and who am I to stop you? My points though… my points are negative of course.

The first deals with Syps points 4&5, the fact that STO shows marked improvement and potential. Star Trek, as a game, as an IP and as a phenomenon should be commanding attention in the online market. Eve players should be eyeing up gorgeous ships with envy. Cryptic fans should be touting the jewel in their crown. Star Trek vs Star Wars debates should be suffering a blow as STO is out the gate well in advance of TOR. Cryptic made much of the fact that they have voice work from Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto. They’ve worked with the plot point presented by the latest (and for me greatest) Star Trek movie. They’ve had all the breaks, all the chances and all the support and fans they could want. The game should be shining as it comes out of beta. Not “improving”, not “showing potential”. Star Trek is so deep within popular culture now that a poor execution of the game wounds fan spirits greater than if it was a newer ip. It’s launch shouldn’t be marred by last minute controversy. In light of the goings on with Champions (the two games being practically joined at the hip) the idea of a big content update 45 days after launch, requiring you to be into the second month of paying is just a further insult.

My second reason for disliking Star Trek Online is a little more airy. Shannon and I were watching the special features disc for the movie recently and Michael Giacchino made a fantastic point that had never really filtered into my mind before he voiced it. They left the theme of Star Trek right to the very end. They had flirted with it at various points through the movie but the cast and the crew had not yet earned it. As the movie closes, Leonard Nimoy talks us through it, the music swells and the ship, the crew and the franchise leaps into warp speed and the future. Love it or loathe it, the people behind the most recent Star Trek movie loved what they did, strove to be worthy of Star Trek and earned at least my adoration. Cryptic on the other hand has never (in a visible manner) given the same effort. They delivered a game based on an engine that isn’t suited for it with complaints everywhere. They slapped something together, stuck a combadge on it and partied like it was 2399. At no point in the beta build up, the marketing campaign or the public test did they earn the right to create or run Star Trek. IPs have huge power, but slapping an IP on a game you’d already built and calling it a day is nothing less than a gross insult to the fans of the IP. Just because it has the label of Star Trek, this in no way means they earned it.

The Champions debacle is an entry on its own. However there is something that I have taken away from Cryptics pricing, tactics and my own coloured views of Star Trek. This isn’t the game we deserve, this isn’t even the game that should have been. It was thrown together hastily using whatever was handy, marketed and shoved out the door. Why? I say because of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

So much of the industry nowadays is focused on WoW-killers and the next WoW and Bioware could topple Blizzard that they panic. Farming cash from the Star Trek IP in this way says only that Cryptic as a developer and Atari as a publisher had no faith in what they created, they didn’t think it’d survive contact with a Bioware Star Wars and they didn’t even bother to make a new game. Instead of being a virtual world where humanity has grown beyond some of our worst features, instead of being the shining light of hope that Star Trek strove to be, this is an extended exercise in lining ones pockets at the expense of a fanbase. Personally, my heart is broken.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Start Trekin’

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while I know. First Shannon put out her back on Thanksgiving, then it was Christmas and then it was New Years, Shannon’s birthday, my birthday and yesterday my anniversary.

That all said, it’s a poor excuse but hey it needed saying.

Soooo! Star Trek.

I got into the Closed Beta quite some time ago, in fact shortly after I did I made sure to make a note. I will be perfectly honest and say that in the closed beta, I didn’t exactly give it the most rigorous testing of it’s life, nor did I pour obsessively over it so that I could give you the best review of your lives. Why? Well Cryptic works on PST and as a result the three or four hour beta windows were typically far too late in the evening for me. I stayed up till 3am for my first, just to see the game, but after that I couldn’t be bothered. If a window met me and if I wasn’t otherwise occupied then I played. However the painfully brief windows for testing left little opportunity for me on GMT to actually y’know.. test.

Speaking of said windows, the only time the game was up for a nice meaty chunk of time before open beta was a week before Christmas. All other times, maybe maaaaybe for a few hours with each window a week or so apart at times. If you’ve been fretting about how fast this game has been tested, there’s some more fuel for the fire. If you think Champions Online was an extended beta for Star Trek, well then surely the engine didn’t need that much testing.

On the game itself, I have a surprising revelation given how I’ve been about it. Having tootled about in my little Centaur for a bit, you know game-wise, it isn’t half bad. I’ve only gotten to Lieutenant Rank 6 so it’s not like I’ve seen all that can be seen and done.

Bullet points! This would be the pro-list.

  • Fleet Actions or as you know them, Warhammer Public Quests
  • Diplomatic Missions (I did one, simple chat and remember)
  • Trans-Warp to Starbase (A hearthstone by any other name, but graphically appealing)
  • Phasers and Photons sound like they should.
  • Open instance auto teaming.
  • Space combat is engaging.
  • Alternative crafting methods.

And my con list.

  • Cryptics level of customization.
  • Micro-transactions.
  • Lifetime Sub price.
  • Poor mob AI.
  • Immersion.
  • The fact that it’s Star Champions Online Trek.

Because I’m a miserable sod, we’ll deal the the cons first. Micro-transactions as a complaint have been beaten to death previously and by better than me. The lifetime subscription price has also been worked over something rotten.

Let’s complain about Cryptics level of customization. Odd I know, that’s generally where they get the most praise and usually rightly so. Cryptic set the bar with the City of Heroes creator, worked themselves harder for Champions and when Shannon saw the creator for Star Trek where you could create your own race she fell in love. You can change every little thing and there’s even (fluffwise) leeway given to alternative gender options. After that, Starbase offers you the chance to tailor again, offers you a choice of ship configurations and bridge layouts. You can have your scratch built race, personally modified ship and favourite bridge set up. Why I count this against them is simple. Cryptic, make a game where yes you have a fantastic creator but where people actually want to play the creations. It’s all well and good that you can tweak a custom race to such a degree and then do it to your ship as well, but shouldn’t that level of attention be given to the game proper? I’m not saying that it hasn’t been, that’d be for people who have tested it harder than I to decide.

Mob AI is idiotic on the ground. You get bonuses for flanking attacks in ground combat so if you have your away team, you want to try take the other guys by surprise or otherwise get around them to get the extra damage. Best way? Wait till they shoot at someone and then walk past them. Many times I would finish killing a Klingon only to realise there was a line of them directly behind me and not one of them paying me the slighest bit of attention. It isn’t honourable, but I shot each of them in the back. My brother who also tested has said that he has found that many people give their away teams Wide area phasers so they generate all the threat while he goes around the back and finishes the job. Will crews be twinked to soak all the aggro? Oh you bet.

The other two cons come hand in hand. Star Champions Online Trek and Immersion. I know a bunch of people who have nothing but praise for CO, but it’s not for me. However STO is Champions with another skin and some space bits. You still loot, you still look funny, you still only play in instances with a handful of people and have the same damn chat system. I didn’t like Champions and if I played Star Trek, I’d be forced to endure parts of Champions that I still don’t like but in what should be a completely different game. I can understand trying to cover your costs by reusing the engine, hell it makes perfect technical and financial sense. On the other hand, if people didn’t like your other game, they’ll be able to find fault with this.

Immersion is also a problem. Star Fleet is by very definition a uniform military organisation. It has codes of conduct, acceptable behaviours, a prime directive and an image to uphold. I don’t think an institution like Star Fleet can be done properly outside of single player games. Everyone in this MMO starts as an Ensign who gets given a ship. Apparently everyone down the chain of command on a ship you don’t even start on gets killed real dead and as a result you have to take command. You were led by your nose through the entire tutorial and told what to do and how, but they trust you with a Starship for keeps. After a few months of live time, Sol System will have more Rear Admirals than you can shake a Romulan Ale at. Everyone is also their own Captain. On an away team solo, you’re the boss and you have your bridge crew you can pick from to accompany you. On a team away team, the leader picks who gets to fill the dead spots with their npcs. You can invite people to your bridge which is nice, but is essentially pointless. I’m sure people will claim that the roleplay community will be fantastic and I do wish them my best but I don’t see how the immersion will work and to be honest, Star Trek fans are all but unpleasable. Everyone’s a Captain and the leader will be the one with the rare blue Klingon Disruptors.

Going back a second in my incoherent ranting, looting in Star Trek makes no sense. Buying black market from Ferengi, yes. Requisitioning in Starbase, yes. Coming across the bits and pieces of a long dead civilisation? Yes. Hot swapping phaser banks for the newly looted Romulan disruptor cannons… no. Refitting the offensive potential of a Starship should not be a drag and drop in between combats affair. Neither should Star Fleet personnel be picking over the hulks of destroyed ships like so many Pakleds.

I will give the pros a review of their own after work but I’ll say this. Despite my complaints, most of which can be laid at the feet of Cryptic or the trouble in adapting certain IPs to current MMO models, the game itself isn’t terribly bad. I happily flew around and fired my phasers. It didn’t breach Shannons warp core, she got bored the moment she was put in a ship in the tutorial, but I was distracted decently enough. However I’d not buy it. It’s an okay game but I wouldn’t give up my current games and give them money for “okay”. Cryptic can work on it, as people think they will using the lifetime cashgrab, and when it is stellar (pun intended) they can call me.