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It is that double XP time again

September 30, 2009 Comments off

Paragon Studios has announced that it is time for a double XP weekend in City of Heroes/Villains again, between October 8th and 11th. This time it also includes a reactivation of inactive accounts over the weekend.

So it can be a good time to play around a bit with some old villains and heroes, put some new colours on their blasts, pets and other powers. Or perhaps try the new sidekicking system or try the new difficulty settings and take large hordes of enemies, even if solo or in small team.

Double XP weekends usually make servers a bit more busy than usual, which can be nice in itself – depending on server and which side you play (red/villain or blue/hero). For me that is the main draw with such events; it usually brings back some old friends and others to visit the game over the weekend, if nothing else.

In my case I thus find it a bit unfortunate that I will be off over the weekend to a magician’s convention precisely that weekend. But on the other hand I will be meeting even older friends at that place, so it will still be quite good.

Categories: City of Heroes

Oh Nemesis my Nemesis

September 27, 2009 2 comments

Today I reached a milestone with my highest character in Champions Online, Ais Kreem. By reaching level 25 I was now able to create my own nemesis for Ais. This is one of the unique features with Champions Online and it certainly did not disappoint. So far I have had one encounter with my Nemesis, right after his creation.

Ais Kreem's nemesis makes an appearance

Ais Kreem's nemesis makes an appearance

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Categories: Champions Online

Freedom to screw up

September 27, 2009 4 comments

We always seem to want more and better options for MMOs that we play. More skills or powers, more levels etc. Sometimes we complain about the somewhat rigid DIKU-like model many MMOs are in. But are people prepared to get what they want?

This September has been a bit extraordinary in that there has been multiple interesting MMO releases in the same month; Champions Online and Fallen Earth. Both games provide the option to develop your characters pretty much any way you want. No fixed classes/professions or skill sets – you can be whatever you want from what is offered.

But for choices to be meaningful there must be good and bad choices (given some context) – if every choice would lead to an equally good result, then why make the choices at all? And if the results are just spread between good and better, will that not just trivialise the context for that choice?

Power and characteristic choices will make a difference in Champions Online

Power and characteristic choices will make a difference in Champions Online

As an example, in Champions Online there is pretty much complete freedom to mix and match any powers available, as well as control the character attributes. No class or archtetype restrictions and no inherent capbilities.  What you choose is what you get. So there has been occasions where people have made choices that gives them trouble in combat – more troble than others. This could be a bad choice of powers and characteristics for combat in the game.

This is as it should be – it must be possible to screw up. If there were no bad choices here then combat would be trivial for those that make the better choices – which in the end would bore most people. But it must also be possible to correct mistakes with a reasonable amount of effort. Experimentation should be encouraged.

However, this reasoning also only works well if you actually care about the result of a choice. But there may be cases where you just want something. Taking Champions as an example again, if you do not care about making a superhero that handles combat great and only want something that matches a concept – then the choices may be in the way. You just want something “good enough”. In that case the choice becomes an obstacle.

Fallen Earth also offers a lot of freedom in building your character

Fallen Earth also offers a lot of freedom in building your character

In time I think games with plenty of freedom of choice such as Champions Online and Fallen Earth will have various guides on fan sites, both for mix/max:ers and those that just want “good enough”. But now in the early days for both games, I think you probably need to have at least a reasonable amount interest in comtrolling the improvement of your character and experimenting with that.

Personally I am not a mix/max:er and concept is more important. But I do like to tinker and learn about improvement for my character, so choices still matter. And I love that I have enough freedom that my concepts do not have to fit in some predefined class/archetype structure. I have made good and bad choices, but I think at least I have learned from my mistakes and my understanding improves. That in itself makes the game experience quite rewarding.

Avoiding Fantasy MMOs

September 21, 2009 6 comments

Fantasy is not my favourite genre.  With a few exceptions I have not much clue of who is who among fantasy authors – the only author whose books I have read a lot is Terry Pratchett. I do not dislike fantasy – I just have difficulty to show any extended interest in it.

For MMOs, my first 4 MMOs were categorised in different genres (Anarchy Online, Earth&Beyond, EVE Online, Star Wars Galaxies) and I got my introduction to fantasy MMO with Final Fantasy XI. There are certainly some quite good fantasy MMO games out there, but I do find that I am perhaps in some cases less tolerant and less patient with fantasy MMOs than with some other genres.

Good or bad, I see little reason to go back to World of Warcraft, LOTRO, Everquest 2, Dungeons&Dragons Online or Age of Conan. Or try Warhammer Online or Aion for the first time. Guild Wars and Saga or Ryzom are perhaps my exceptions – in particular Guild Wars’ quite strong story part and interesting skill system and mission/game mechanics still has made it fun to play. And one reason I will likely try out Guild Wars 2 despite the fantasy genre.

But if I look at any part that may be less than stellar in a game I have certainly had more than enough of farmers and others wanting me to kill boars/wolves/orcs/trolls/dragons/elves/whatever. Similar mechanics but with some other genres seem to work out better for me.

How important is the genre for you? Does it matter at all?

Categories: MMOG blogs

Issue 16 is live!

September 16, 2009 Comments off

The newest update of City of Heroes/Villains, Issue 16, is now live! While this issue does not bring any new content in the form of new missions or zones, it does provide a set of improvements and changes – some of them certainly due to the competition with Champions Online.

The release notes can be found here.

I am mainly positive about the changes, but not all of them.

1. Custom colours for powers. This has apparently been a huge effort to accomplish and I think it certainly is a nice option for those who want to be creative with their character apperance. Seeing some of the creative uses in Champions Online for this type of feature I think it may provide interesting new views in City of Heroes/Villains. The coloring options may even be better here than in Champions. Probably noth that will convince someone to go with CoX instead of CO in itself; rather something to perhaps keep old players.

2. Super-sidekicking. The old sidekicking pairs are gone and a much more flexible system is not in place, on par with Champions. Together with some of the other team-related options CoX would be the better one for team play in comparision with Champions. Part of this revamp is also that players can still earn XP even if they are changed to a lower level – before the only earned influence/infamy in that case. That will certainly make more of the content interesting for people to play regardless of level.

3. Personal group size settings and wider range of difficulty settings. Instead of the 5 difficulty settings that were before it is not possible to have a wider range of level differences for enemies and it is also possible to trigger mob group sizes and spawns based on a virtual team size. So even if you play solo one could potentially get spawns for a full 8 man team. This will provide better options to set the difficulty that suits each person or team and will make play more fun for many I think.

4. If enemy groups in Mission Architect missions do not have minions, lieutenants and bosses in them, then XP will be reduced – if they are part of regular group spawns. This certainly is aimed at taken the edge of easy farming missions. It does not include boss fight objectives. I can think of some legitimate non-farming situations when not all three of those types have been used, so I am not all positive about it. But this particular change may perhaps bring more good than bad overall.

5. XP reduction for custom mobs and limited enemy group compositionsin Mission Architect missions. This one I do not like. Custom enemies have three difficulty settings – standard, hard and extreme for each of their powersets. However, even on standard setting custom enemies have often been more difficult to fight, in particular for lower levels. But now XP is reduced unless enemies are set to be hard/hard at least, plus there are no XP bonus here for them to be harder.

This is most likely some attempt to deal with excessive farming in Mission Architect, but I think it will mainly hurt those who use it the way it was intended. Already before this change XP was in practice lower with “normal” usage and teaming more complicated to deal with than with regular missions and not it is potentially lowered even more, if custom enemies are included in the story arc. I do not see that this would hurt the excessive farmers much but I think most likely make people less inclined to play Mission Architect missions they way they were intended.

To be honest, while many people like good stories they will in many cases not go out of their way to experience those – better XP and rewards will have higher priority for many players, as have been seen over and over again in many MMOs. A great story has limited value for both author and player if no-one experience it and the mission architect system already suffers from too many arcs in comparision to the number of people playing them.

I would like to be proven wrong here, but I suspect there will not be more people playing Mission Architect arcs they way they were intended. It may reduce farming, but will likely not increase story-oriented play. I hope I am proven wrong here though.

Categories: City of Heroes

In the City of Champions

September 15, 2009 3 comments

I have not posted much lately – main reason is that I have been playing Champions Online.  The game is a lot of fun and I have ended up in my old pattern of serious altoholicism – 11 characters so far after a bit more than 2 weeks with the game, in level range 7  to 18.  About half of them has been given some backstory description (that field is too short in the game!), the rest I will figure out as I go.

I am just going to put some quick notes here from playing the game; there is too much I would like to write about, but will try to keep things somewhat short and maybe make a few more posts.

Rescuing Bigfoot from the clutches of VIPER

Rescuing Bigfoot from the clutches of VIPER

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Categories: Champions Online

The trouble with neighbours

September 2, 2009 1 comment

– “Bongo, we have some serious trouble. Can you help us?”

The mayor of Millenium City looked expectantly at the hulking, long-armed creature in front of him; trying to hide a lingering unease. The mayor was a traditionalist – superheroes should wear spandex and have capes, with a straight posture looking really heroic. But the …person… in front of him was very far from it – a big clown with a movement pattern that reminded him of the Librarian from Unseen University. Well, at least if the Librarian had been a real creature and not a fictional character.

– “Will look into it boss. There might be some collateral damage though, my Qularrese is a bit rusty. Once when I tried to order a veggie Qularr pizza I ended up insulting the restuarant owner’s daughter and… but never mind. I will do my best”.

Bongo headed off along the streets,  jumping and running on all four at the same time.

The Qularr quarters in Millenium City was not always that popular, but with the continuous investement into entertainment complexes by various Qularr corporations had caused a boom and now everyone wanted to either hang around or live near the Qularrs. At least until today.

It is still not clear what has caused the riots, with Qularrs smashing everything non-Qularr in the area. Bongo started to ask the local Qularrs he ran into, but it was a bit difficult to make sense of what they said – Mill-something or Anilli-something.  They did point down the road a few blocks though, so Bongo headed off in that direction.

He wore his Real Hero badge, which kind of gave his presence some kind of official status. Which meant that everyone wanted him to help with something. If it was not finding a cat, or find some toy gun for a kid, then it was finding some losy items for a tourist and helping some locals carry around stuff, solve a crossword or a sudoku or give some gardening advise.

After a bit too long sequence of a bit mundane tasks he ran into Ironclad. Not quite the clientel he usually hang out with (those gladiator types become quite annoying after a few beers), but the big…”thing”..Ironclad had put up was kind of interesting.

– “It is a ghetto blaster!”, Ironclad announced proudly.

– “Those damn Qularr pulled out most of the cords though, so I have to re-assemble it again. But man, wait until I put the music back on. It is hooked up directly to our Media Center in our apartment and I can remote control it from here! This is sooo cool!”. Ironclad almost purred with joy – although thinking of a person of Ironclad’s posture purring is almost a recipe for Stomach Unrest.

This might be it – the Qularr are known for a quite exquisite taste in music in general, but with people like Ironclad you never know what might pick their fancy.

– “So, Iron my man. What groovy sound is on your playlist today?”.  Bongo tried to not sound too eager to get the answer.

– “Oh, I am going through some of Defender’s playlists right now. He has some wicked oldies in there! He is home now, he can probably set up some of your favourites if you pay him a visit.”

Defender has chosen the playlists?!? The man that had been banned from most music cafés and night clubs in the city and was the majority of the city’s DJs “most hated list”? That Defender?! Bongo smiled, this was going quite well.

Bongo ran..ehh..jumped…or something right into the Champions building. The lobby was a mess. Bongo checked the apartment list. Defender and Ironclad – 3rd floor. A few quick jumps and Bongo was outside the door – it was open.

There was some rumbling and noice. Bongo noticed a few unconscious Qularr in the front hall, with a painful expression on their faces.

– “Hey, Defender, are you there?” Bongo shouted.

– “Huh, who is that? I am in the living room” the answer came back.

Bongo headed in, but was startled by the high-pitched sound that came out of the speakers in the living room.

– “What the *&!% is that?” he shouted, clasping his hands over his ears.

– “Ohh, that is Milli Vanilli! I found every song they med and a few covers as well on Spotify and I have set up a playlist with them!  Cool huh?”

– “Are you crazy!? Do you understand the havoc you are causing by playing that in the Qularr quarters!? And how could you let Ironclad hook up a Ghetto Blaster to play this as well?”

– “…uuuhh..eeehhh…it was his fault!”. Defender pointed to the man in a black exoskeleton that just walked out of the kitchen, with four beers in his hands…claws…something.

– “What are you talking about? It is your music, I am just here for our regular Dr. Destroyer afternoon. Turn on the TV, the Dr is on any minute now!”. Black Talon looked a bit miffed, but put down the beers on the table by the sofa and flung himself into the nearby armchair, almost breaking it.

– “It is Dr Destroyers fault, he placed the music here to drive the Qularr crazy!”. Defender looked very small and did not keep his eyes still on anything for more than a fraction of a second.

Bongo sighed. “So you are blaming the issues here on a daytime TV psycologist? I cannot say I like Dr Destroyer’s shows with all that end of the world or rule the world crap, but that is a bit thick, don’t you think?”

Bongo tried to straight up a bit and walk with a slightly noble posture (which was a strech), like he had seen in those Poirot movies.

“First of all, that…music…is coming from your media center and your apartment, which Ironclad had hooked up to his ghetto blaster. How would you explain that Dr Destroyer, or Black Talon for that matter could come into your place and set up this things without your approval or knowledge?! It does not make sense!”

“Second, your taste in music has been proven again and again to be a bit lacking, while the Qularrs have shown again and again what really good music is all about. No wonder they are rioting on the streets. This has to stop now.”

Bongo ran across the living room ans smashed the Media Center to pieces. Then he followed the cords leading out of the window to Ironclad’s ghetto blaster and cut them in two with a swift move.

Bongo pointed to Defender. “You might want to be somewhere else while this cools down – Canada, the desert – I don’t care. I will talk to the Qularrs and try to smooth things out. You should have known better when you moved to the Qularr quarters. Talk about pissing off your neighbours”.

Bongo jumped out of the building and headed off where he expected the mayor to be. All in a days work for a Real Hero. Why did that old lady look a bit weird at him? Oh crap, he had forgotten about that other cat…

(end of story)

Note: In my mind there was a flaw in the logic of the story in the Champions Online tutorial zone, which inspired to write an alternate story for fun. I promise I will buy Defender a beer next time I meet him in game, no hard feelings eh?

Categories: Champions Online

Champions Online character profiles

September 1, 2009 5 comments

I am currently on an assignment in Abu Dhabi. Here it is currently the holy month of Ramadan, which means no food and no drink between sunrise and sunset. As a foreigner one is expected to respect the local customs and at least not eat or drink in public places.

This means that restaurants etc are generally closed until after sunset, so I am spending a bit of hungry time at the hotel room waiting for sunset – browsing the web among other things.

One of the things I looked at now was the Champions Online web site, where I discovered a link I had not seen before – “My Characters”.

My Champions Online characters currently

My Champions Online characters currently

It turns out that this goes to a few pages for your current in-game characters. For each character on the main page one can click and go into further details, which shows a lot of different info about the character – picture, powers selected, list of active and completed missions, inventory, equipped items etc.

There is detailed info about each character

There is detailed info about each character

One can also update the character’s bio and do blog posts; the latter I assume will trigger the blog event that is part of the /socialmedia settings.

There is also an option to change and the pose and view the character profile picture. Saving the picture did not seem to do any good to the picture on the main page though, but there is perhaps some other image this is supposed to reflect?

It looks quite neat, although I am not sure how other people can see my character profiles through a web browser? I did not see any links to look at other people’s characters. There is an “Other Characters” text, but it is not hyperlinked.

There is an option to change view and pose of your character's image

There is an option to change view and pose of your character's image

Categories: Champions Online