Archive for October, 2009

The joy of death

October 31, 2009 1 comment

A post on the Champions forums titled Do you die…and love it? prompted me to do this post.

One reason that I do not follow MMO forums that much is that I find that there is sometimes too much min/max kind of talk going on for my taste. Thus is very encouraging to see threads like the one above! It is about the the exhilarating fun of just jumping into a fight which may very well end up in a death and even frequent deaths. But it does not matter, because it is so much fun to play a bit on the edge!

One may go down in flames - but it can be so much fun!

One may go down in flames - but it can be so much fun!

I very much agree with the spirit of the posts in that thread. I do not really care if I have an optimal power selection and I am fine with going down somewhat often – I go down in flames and biting, clawing, kicking while doing it. Champions is one of the few MMOs where I enjoy playing melee characters – it is great fun! Min/max:ers think they are gimped and some of my melee characters do have it tougher in general compared to some other characters. But they are fun!

My chef wanted to be in Hell's Kitchen and all he got was this Canadian crisis

My chef wanted to be in Hell's Kitchen and all he got was this Canadian crisis

In the long run I rather have characters that have to struggle a bit to win, because that makes the combat more fun. Too stable and safe and it becomes boring. So I do not mind that my characters are not invincible or super heroic like Superman or some other superhero – that may be cool to read about and see in the  movies, but actually play? No, I prefer my odd characters who may have to struggle a bit in their fights.

Even the bad guys realize that melee can be fun

Even the bad guys realize that melee can be fun

Categories: Champions Online

Blood Moon second run

October 31, 2009 2 comments

I am not a PvP player usually in MMOs – pretty much the only game where I liked to play PvP was some of the game types in Guild Wars. I have also avoided the PvP part in Champions Online – until now.

With the Blood Moon event Cryptic introduced a new PvP map/game – Zombie Apocalypse. This will be a permanent addition to the available PvP games. They have also added some open world PvP, werewolves vs hunters aka BITE, which is just running during the Blood Moon event.

Zombie Apocalypse is a small map with some cottages, presumably in the Canadian wilderness. On this map one of the participating heroes will start as a super-zombie, which can fight the group of regular heroes on the map. The zombie player is assisted by a never endiong flow of NPC zombies of various types. As soon as a regular hero is defeated, he/she is turned into a zombie as well. This means a zombie outfit, but the same powers as before the untimely death (or rather undeath).   The zombie players can then attack the remaining regular players. This continues until there are no regular heroes left.

Player and NPC zombies all swarm to defeat the player heroes

Player and NPC zombies all swarm to defeat the player heroes

I found this to be quite fun actually and the mix of player zo,bies and NPC zombies attacking worked out well – the attack waves started slow and then the intensity increased steadily as time passed. A game takes maybe 5-10 minutes, so it is quick and easy to jump in. And since you can join from anywhewre in the world, it is quite easy and convenient to jump in for a few minutes of apocalypse. The Zombie Apocalypse is available to players from level 5. It seems that everyone’s levels are adjusted to a common level for the map, so that everyone  is at the same level.

I played about 6-7 Apocalypse games today at various times, quite neat to jump in for a short play every now and then.

The BITE event is something that was described as “Open World PvP”. To me that is something I have had bad experiences with, sinc eit has seldom worked out well if one is interested in doing both PvP and PvE in my experience – at least not if the focus is PvE still. But I must say that I do like how Cryptic has handled it here.

In BITE a player can be either a werewolf or a hunter – the player can choose to play as either a hunter or a werewolf. There are contacts for each side in certain areas of the Desert, Canada and Monster Island zones. The contacts are located in certain werewolf-infested areas of these zones.

As a player hunter, the only other player that I can fight against are the werewolf players and vice versa. This means that the fight can go on in open areas, but without necessarily disturb/annoy people that have no or little interest in PvP. However, the NPC werewolves can still attack regular players. And if you get defeated while you are infected with Lycantrophy, you become a werewolf!

Our werewolf team hunting down some hunters

Our werewolf team hunting down some hunters

Werewolves and hunters also get a fixed set of powers – everyone is the same.   I think this is a fair approach. Today I played for a while as a werewolf – fighting the hunters was good fun and something I will very much consider to do again.  The waves of battle went back and forth in the werewolf-infested area of the map, as people joined or left either of the two sides.

I also did some of the PvE missions in werewolf form, which worked out fine. As soon as one changes zone the effect wears off though. All in all I enjoyed this session, which was mainly PvP for a change.

Categories: Champions Online

Blood Moon first run

October 27, 2009 Comments off

The Blood Moon event started today – zombies, werewolves, fallen heroes and darkness all over the zones.

The first thing I had a look at was the mission to defeat the 13 fallen heroes that the big bad guy, Takofanes, had brought back as undead to let them smack around some heroes. In Millenium City there are now 13 different gates spread out all over the city – each an entrance for a fallen hero and the zombies he/she control. Each gate works as an Open Mission, where 50 zombies has to be defeated first and after that the fallen hero has to be defeated.

Defeating these heroes are just the start of it though – completing the Open Mission provides access to a mission. This mission is about to enter the gate and go save the soul of the fallen hero. On the way there there are hordes of zombies/undead to beat the way through, plus some super villains to defeat.

It was a bit of a shock initially though to see that each Open Mission was on a 2 hour reset timer! And many of the gates in the same instance activated almost at the same time, so one could not go from one gate to another and get all 13 of them. Switching instances helps to find shorter timers, but doing it this way would be very time consuming.

Wating to beat up fallen hero Amazing Grace

Wating to beat up fallen hero Amazing Grace

In a way I think it is ok to have it all on a timer – that will not disturb people who want to do normal missions in these areas too much then. Two hours might be stretching it though. Fortunately there is a much easier way to get the missions – sharing them. All these missions are shareable, so it is just a matter of teaming up with someone with the missions and get them shared. Much quicker and easier. We did a fair amount of sharing among each other in the super group, so people got the mission quickly.

The fallen hero missions were all at reasonably low levels – ranging from level 14 and up to 27, with the bulk of them being between 14 and 18. So anyone that would be in Millenium City anyway with their characters could jump in. And anyone in some other level range could be sidekicked anyway. All the missions were quite similar in the layout of the instances – not identical for all, but only with small differences. So the path to go through became familiar quite quickly.

Rescuing the souls of all 13 heroes, plus completing a mission to collect celestial essence is the criteria to unlock the new Celestial powerset, which is a dual-purpose healing/damage dealing powerset (heal your allies or hurt your enemies with the same powers). For those that do not complete these missions the powerset will be available on November 10th.

A few of use in the supergroup completed all of these missions. Since most of us did this with 30+ characters the missions themselves were pretty easy. The recommendation if they are played at the appropriate level is to be 3 in a team.

It was a rather ok evening to go through it – not challenging though since we were a bit high level. I did manage to get killed once though, in a moment of hubris… Next will be to explore and try out the other events happening during Blood Moon and of course set up a character with the Celestial powerset. Good times!

(I forgot to take screenshots, which is why there is only one not-very-good screenshot in this post)

Categories: Champions Online

Free trial for Champions during Blood Moon

October 26, 2009 1 comment

Cryptic is running a free trial offer for Champions Online during the Halloween weekend, starting from Friday October 30th to Monday November 2nd.

To sign up for the trial and download the client (can be done right away), follow the link here.

Although a limited free trial, I think it is still good that offer something like that – I wish all pay-for-the-game, subscription-based MMOs would do that right from the start. Especially if you are not in the mainstream MMO segment (Elf fans) you need to lower the barrier of entry nowadays.

Categories: Champions Online

First view of Going Rogue

October 26, 2009 1 comment

A thread on Champions Online on Massively had a link to a keynote speech at HeroCon where the City of Heroes/Villains Going Rogue expansion was presented (thanks to backlash for that link). The presentation talks a bit about what is in the Going Rogue expenasion:

  • A number of new zones for Praetorian Earth, a parallel universe which is ruled by emperor Marcus Cole (the evil twin counterpart of Statesman in the regular City of Heroes).
  • Heroes can become Vigilantes, gradually becoming more evil – if he/she chooses. A vigilante can visit the Rogue Isles and team with villains.
  • Villains can become Rogues, gradually becoming more good – if he/she chooses. A rogue can visit Paragon City and team with heroes.
  • New characters can start in Preatorian Earth as well and choose to align themselves with the Loyalists (villains) or the Rebels (heroes) – or somewhere in between, it seems.
  • Travel back and forth between Preatorian Earth and Primal Earth (our Earth) is possible.
  • Two new powersets, dual pistols and demon summoning
  • Dual pistols is a blaster/corruptor/defender powerset, with selectable ammo choices – standard, cryo, incendiary and chemical.
  • Demon summoning is a mastermind powerset, also includes flaming whip (!) as personal weapon for the player
  • A couple of new enemy groups in Praetoria and a graphic refresh of a number of characters from Praetorian side.
  • A new graphics setting – Ultra Mode

The Ultra Mode graphics setting is what the majority of the presentation covered, with in-game display of a small part of Praetoria. They have done a number of improvements in terms of shadows and reflections and other bits and pieces, making the game look better. The quality of the YouTube video is not the best, but the differences are very much noticeable, especially when they did turn on and off this Ultra Mode.

The good thing is also that this new settings works for all content, both old and new. They showed some views from the old/existing zones with Ultra Mode turned on/off  – quite nice.

They also had a combat demo with dual pistols – certainly fit with the notion of a super gunslinger.

Release date for Going Rogue is preliminary set to some time in the second quarter of 2010, with closed beta starting in early 2010. 5-year veterans, those that are in the loyalty program and HeroCon attendees are going to be invited in waves to the beta.

I think it looks promising so far. I will certainly turn my villains and heroes to rogues and vigilantes – my view of them in general has always been somewhere in between pure villan and pure hero anyway. And this also has the bonus of being able to travel anywhere in the game. Good work, Paragon Studios!

Categories: City of Heroes

Flying robots

October 21, 2009 4 comments

The Champions Online store has a few more items now, as mentioned in a previous post.  I decided to pick up some more costume parts, with the first update being the Cyborg Beast costume set.

My first costume change here was to use the beast wings on my Soviet war robot. The rest of the robot uses generally available costume parts in the picture.

Flying Soviets in Canada

Flying Soviets in Canada

It is a nice addition, although not always optimal if you combat flying – the large flapping wings can block the view of some enemies from time to time.  I like to use flying when combatting with ranged attacks, even though it uses up a bit more energy – the added mobility is nice to have. So I will have to see how it works out.

Categories: Champions Online

Going to Monster Island

October 20, 2009 1 comment

This past weekend my highest hero in Champions Online, Ais Kreem, decided to visit a new zone – Monster Island. Up to level 30 the game content is pretty much alternated between three big zones – Millenium City, Canadian Wilderness and Southwest Desert.  Monster Island provides content starting at level 30.

Stop the evil clones!

Stop the evil clones!

But before being able to go into the real zone, one has to complete the Monster Island Crisis Zone. This is similar to what was done early in the hero’s career where there was a crisis zone right after the tutorial, before being allowed into the real zones.  The crisis zones of Canadian Wilderness and the Desert were however built up similar to a mission hub with a number of missions received from NPCs. The Monster Island crisis zone is different.

Go. Hunt. Kill VIPER.

Go. Hunt. Kill VIPER.

It is instead pretty much a big Open Mission area (public quest for you fantasy types) with a story progressing through multiple stages, each new stage being revealed after the previous one has been completed. This was a very fun experience! The crisis zone has all the good stuff – hordes of henchmen, good guys to rescue and which will assist you, big robots, evil scientists, super villains, legendary villains, giant dinosaur and a King Kong-lookalike.

So which King Kong movie do you guys like best?

So which King Kong movie do you guys like best?

It is definitely an experience that is aimed for teamwork. When accepting the mission to go to the crisis zone, one is placed into a queue. I suspected it waits until there are enough players and then creates a new instance of the crisis zone – thus there should be enough people to complete it and everyone can be part of it from start.

I think the Monster Island crisis zone was very good and if Cryptic keeps introducing new zones this way I will be a happy player.

Categories: Champions Online

New items in the Champions Online store

October 20, 2009 4 comments

Since the release of Champions Online, the only items available in their game store has been a few action figures. Not it seems that the store has expanded with a few more items.

Payments are made with Cryptic Points, where 80 points correspond to 1 USD currently.

There are a number of costume sets available, including a few Halloween costumes. Each costume set costs 3 USD basically. There are some emblem packs which are 1 USD per pack. These packs unlocks the costumes and emblems for all characters on the account.

Additional character slots go for 15 USD for four slots.

Two additional costume slots (for all characters) cost 5 USD – you can get up to 4 costume slots normally in the game – 3 individual and one supergroup.

There are also character rename and full retcon (a.k.a respec in some other games). The rename seems to cost less than in other games who provide this (3.50 USD). The retcon feels a bit expensive to me at 12.50 USD – especially since it is just to use with one character.

I have never used a full retcon myself yet, not even the ones thay have given for free in the game during power changes in the game. And the limited (up to 10 choices) retcons can still be made in game without any real money input. So it may never come to that I would buy a full retcon. Still, my gut reaction was that the full retcon was expensive.

As it is now there is nothing that immediately strikes me as something I would want to buy – maybe 1 or 2 of the costume sets. I do think it is good that they have expanded the store beyond the action figures now and get a better understanding of what they will offer and what it will cost.

Categories: Champions Online

State of Sente

October 19, 2009 Comments off

I have been a bit quiet in terms of blogging lately, which mainly a matter of a bit less game-related time, so most of that time go to playing rather than blogging.

The main game at the moment is Champions Online – great fun and a nice place to handle my altoholic tendencies. A bit of time is also spent in Fallen Earth, I do like the post-apocalyptic setting and I enjoy playing it every now and then. It fulfills a different type of game activity from Champions and they complement each other nice, I think.

I have been in a bit of a “fantasy rut” for a while now and I have very little interest in any current or new fantasy MMOs. For me the specific mechanics and features of a game may be a primary motivator, but rather the setting and how it has been used. I am a little bit surprised but also relieved that this may be the case – if the mechanics were all that mattered I think it would be very easy to lose the enjoyment of playing these games.

City of Heroes/Villlains has not seen much play either. It has been very much about the people for a long time there and with most in-game friends gone or in other games, there is little on the team-play part that keeps me around. Creating Mission Architect story arcs is still a very enjoyable solo experience, but I have been a bit discouraged by the lack of people playing the missions I have created and some of the things Paragon Studios has done here lately. When the Going Rogue expansion releases it will likely be more play, but right now I have a rather low attendance in the Rogue Isles and Paragon City.

One activity that has increased lately has nothing to do with games – mentalism. I have been a magic enthusiast and occasional hobby magician for more than 30 years. Over the years my interested has shifted a bit more towards mentalism, at least when it comes to performing. It is a branch related to entertainment through magic, but still a bit different. It is on the borderline on exploring our own inherent capabilities as well as taking a bit extra step to provide entertainment miracles. It is that border area of what is a real capability and what might not be, plus a high degree of audience participation that makes it such an interesting area.

It requires a lot of time to become really good (practice, practice, practice), although it is more a matter of sleight of mind rather than more traditional magic entertainment, which may be a bit more sleight of hand.

So, still around but remains to be seen how much blogging it will be in the near future.

Mission for a superhero

October 4, 2009 4 comments

When I first read some comments made about the missions in Champions Online from some closed beta participants, it was a bit negative. Bland and uninteresting were some words used. After playing the game now for about a month since release and a bit before in the open beta, my view does not quite match these comments.

First of all, I do think that the setting plays an important part here. If you do not like or are particularly interested in the general setting of the game, then missions in general will likely be reduced to only abstract game elements – just tasks to get that XP bar move a certain amount or give some specific reward.

Personally, I like the setting. Fighting off a horde of mutants, fighting terrorists or stopping genetic experiments to create super-soldiers do hold more appeal to me than saving the local farmer/villager from an infestation of boars/wolves/orchs.

Many of the missions do have some story context and not just set by the text itself, but where any villains you fight may be or where items may be located. E.g. a mission to confiscate ammunition from a Canadian terrorist group involves going into a terrorist training camp, which guard patrols, terroists-in-training, surface-to-air missile launchers (to shoot down flying superheroes among other things) etc. Some of the early missions and some missions in Millenium City though has a number of  “please come kill us” missions though – locations with loads of enemies which not much logical reason to be there except for players to fight them.

Part of Canadian terrorist training camp

Part of Canadian terrorist training camp

Most of the latter missions are quite quick though – a few minutes perhaps. While in many cases enemies are stupid enough not to notice fights going on quite close to them, it does get a bit more interesting if you are in a team. In those cases enemies are more likely to try to get help and trigger nearby enemies to join. In some cases I think that may happen even if the people in the  area are not teamed up, although cannot confirm that for sure.

Some of the stories end up running some instanced area – some rather simple and some with a bit more extensive storylines. They are usually not particularly long and sometimes may be preferable to have 2-3 persons in a team.

A number of the mission areas, in particular the outdoor zones, do provide various lore items that may not be relevant for the particular mission you are doing, but adds information about the area or the enemies you are fighting, thus building on an overarcing story element. It certainly can add more flavour and interest to what is happening.

Stopping a riot in Stronghold prison

Stopping a riot in Stronghold prison

Another thing that I like about the mission system is that you do not get missions just by talking to NPCs that have a mission marker above their head. In the city people may approach you and ask to look into some disturbance. You may also get mail from some NPC that asks you to get in touch to help out. The system also rewards exploration in that if you enter certain areas you may get an indicator to accept a mission. Or an item you find on the ground or that is dropped from from a defeated enemy may also trigger a mission. If you run into some NPC that has been captured they may in turn provide you with a mission.

Some of these may be off the beaten track and are not connected with any other mission NPCs directing you there. And there is also the Crime Computer, which helps you to find NPCs with missions for you to do. But not every NPC with a potential mission show up there. Mission NPCs also tend to be a bit spread out – there are some in “hub” areas, but a number are also spread out a little bit all over the place.

Chill out, demons!

Chill out, demons!

Then there is also the Open Missions, which are areas with certain objectives in multiple steps – the idea has been taken from Warhammer Online public quests.  My highest character is level 28 and has done around 7-8 different Open Missions so far, there seem to be one every few levels. Some of them have a few people around regularly, others may be a bit more empty. Some of them are also possible to solo, while others really need a few people at least for the final stage. I like the Open Missions; it does provide a different approach to tasks.

One of the common complaints the game has now is lack of content, to which I certainly agree. There seem to be enough mission content as far as I have reached (level 28), but there is not much reduncancy here – you need to do most missions available. This means that for any alts you level up they will basically be doing the same missions again, with little variation.

Some people even complain about gaps in missions and that they do not have any more missions to do or have missions a few level higher than they are. While I cannot say anything about the higher levels, I have never had any such gaps with my highest character yet. At level 28 the missions now active are generally level 26-27. But I think one potential problem here is if you play the game but just going where mission NPCs direct you and not outside that path. In that case I suspect that people may run into “gaps”, because they have missed a number of missions.

City missions, for a healthier living

City missions, for a healthier living

But if more missions would have meant more “filler” type missions with little story context, I do think I prefer it the way it is. The game is not quite up to par with Guild Wars when it comes to strong story content vs fillers, but I think it is still better than a number of other mission-oriented MMOs.

For those that find themselves into the situation that they have a mission gap there is a neat service that I found out about not long ago: Crime Computer 2.0. It takes advantage of the character info that Cryptic makes available and allows you to get a list of missions that a specific character of yours has not completed yet. The data is that the service queries is not updated in real-time; I suspect it is a daily update. So it may not show the latest and greatest info and could potentially list some missions that you have recently completed. It also provides links into the Champions Online wiki for more information about the missions.

I do hope that there will be more content added though; as an altoholic I would like to see more different missions when I play the different alts.

Categories: Champions Online