Archive for December, 2009

Unity and Nemesis

December 30, 2009 2 comments

So with my character Ais Kreem at level 40 I started to have a look what this whole thing with UNITY missions were. This is something that is unlocked for a character when they reach level 40 (max level). Each day there are a few UNITY missions offered from the UNITY headquarter in Millenium City. These missions seem mostly to be a bit like the “Help a Citizen” missions – enter some location on the map and completed a few objectives in an instanced area. At least these missions seem to be slightly more interesting than the “Help a Citizen” missions inthat there are a few objectives in each mission. For those that have not played Champions it could also be compared a bit to the Newspaper/Police band missions of City of Heroes/Villains.

This is UNITY - freeze, punk!

Each mission gives UNITY mission point and UNITY intelligence points. The mission points are the “cash” in this system, which can be used to by items. More on that later. Doing all of the missions for one day seem to bring in 10 UNITY mission points. If enough UNITY intelligence points have been gathered one can use some of these points to get a “UNITY most wanted” mission. This mission then has a choice of 3 lair bosses – entering any of the three lairs (5-man instances) and complete them to defeat the boss there will also complete this mission, which then would give 40 UNITY mission points.

So essentially it seems that you can do 5 pretty easy daily missions + 1 lair per day for 50 mission points as the max per day. The UNITY headquarter also has a store where people can by purple level items (very rare) for their UNITY mission points. A primary item costs 1000 mission points and a secondary item 250 mission points. Since there are 3 primary item slots and 6 secondary item slots it mean that the theoretical minimum to get all purple items from UNITY missions are 90 days.

UNITY here to save the people...the animals...the manimals!

Since there seem to be 3 different lairs to choose from it also mean that one has to do each lair at least 30 times, or spend longer time on doing just the simple missions. While better than nothing I am not that thrilled about the options and it is not really important for me to get all this purple gear either, so I do not think I will do very much of the current UNITY stuff. Still I might do some of it, which is still more then what I usually do with a character at max level in other MMOs.

The Nemesis system in the game has a similar point system where one also can buy purple items for the same prices. But in this case it is Nemesis mission points. I have not kept a close look at how much one get for each of the Nemesis missions, but when I had reached level 40 I had about 275 Nemesis mission points gathered. So I guess it would take a while to collect through the Nemesis system also.

Standard equipment for an evil mastermind/Nemesis - a death ray

On the other hand, I find the Nemesis system to be more fun – it has really a few neat missions in there and are overall more enjoyable than what the UNITY missions seem to be. But there is a limit on how often the Nemesis missions are triggered.

For those that like to repeat dungeons/lairs/instances over and over again to get some better items I guess the system could be ok. But that is not me, so I will see how much of it I end up doing.

Categories: Champions Online

Ais Kreem’s final ding

December 26, 2009 3 comments

My superheroine Ais Kreem has now reached the max level in Champions Online, level 40.  This is the first character for me to reach max level in this game and it has been a fun ride getting there! For a casual gameplay where I have played in mostly short sessions with a character it has worked out fine. Most of the time solo and sometimes in a team. Getting together a team with other supergroup members or a PUG has been quite straightforward also, most of the time.

Fighting evil, in all shapes and forms

Fighting evil, in all shapes and forms

Ais Kreem started out with some Ice powers, which has been the primary power choice, but then mixed in with a few other powers from Supernatural, Gadgeteering and Telepathy powersets. It has been fun playing around with different combinations.

One of the concerns has been that there has not been enough content if one does not want to grind mobs. Perhaps this has changed a bit during the course of the play and more content has been added, but at the time of reaching 40 I had a bunch of missions still in my mission log, a number of them I knew were around but I had not picked up yet and I have still some of the lairs (5-man instances) left to do. I have picked up a few of the “grind” oriented repeatable missions (kill 150 mobs of X in Y, collect 20 of Z from mobs in W), but generally only completed them if that happened automatically while doing other missions.

Lemuria is a neat zone to swim around in

Lemuria is a neat zone to swim around in

I have no definite favourite of the five outdoor zones in the game – Southwest Desert, Canadian Wilderness, Millenium City, Monster Island and Lemuria. I liked the Stronghold prison area in the desert and it was nice to have the big green monster Grond jump around everywhere and wreck havoc. The Canadian terrorist group Hunter-Patriots,  VIPER, Teleois clones and other groups in Canada was also fun. Millenium City was a mixed bag I think, some good points, but also some less exciting parts. Monster Island has been pretty cool and the underwater world of Lemuria is quite neat also – I like the higher emphasis on playing around in 3 dimensions there.

Soviet submarine captain zombies can be a bit grumpy

Soviet submarine captain zombies can be a bit grumpy

Another fun part are the Nemesis encounters. My Nemesis which I created at level 25 is still going strong, plotting ways to take over the world and other matters that are typically something that is the day-to-day life of an evil mastermind.  So I have had to put him jail, stop various plans and deeds and sometimes also saved the world from evil, triggered but my dear Nemesis. Quite enjoyable and we are still going strong.

Dr Jadernij Vek, my nemesis, plotting to release an old evil creature

Dr Jadernij Vek, my nemesis, plotting to release an old evil creature

By reaching level 40 I have now joined UNITY, a group tasked with fighting crime hotspots all over the world (well, the 5 zones in the game at least). Instead of xp one receives some UNITY mission points, which can be used for various things – I have not checked this yet.

Who laid this egg?

Who laid this egg?

Almost at the same time as reaching max level for my character, she also reached the max skill level in crafting, 400 in Science. The crafting has not been a huge part of the experience, but there has come out a few useful items and outfits from it. Cryptic has expanded a little bit on what you can make here also during the past months. It is a nice-to-have extra activity, but not something that would be the main attention in gameplay.

For those that wonder how long it took – my /played time was a bit more than 5 days and 5 hours I guess (did not check when I dinged), i.e. around 125 hours.

Onward towards new heroics

Onward towards new heroics

Categories: Champions Online

Rest in peace, Mikael

December 23, 2009 3 comments

I just learned that a friend of mine has passed away. He was diagnosed with cancer less than 3 weeks ago and now he is gone. Rest in peace, Mikael. You were a great person and we will miss you.

Categories: MMO Games

The timeless free trials

December 22, 2009 7 comments

I think it was either The Chronicles of Spellborn or Saga of Ryzom that were among the first of the subscription-based MMOs to offer free trials which were not limited in time, but rather how far you can get into the game. This approach has then been picked up by Warhammer Online, Age of Conan and Champions Online.

One thing that these games all have in common is that they are not really fighting in the absolute top with regard to subscriber-numbers, so understandably they have to do more to entice people to play. But some of them are still not going the path of “free-to-play” model and some of them keep the same subscription fees. Is an unlimited free trial enough?

In Ryzom you are restricted to the tutorial area, which you can spend a few hours. Age of Conan is limited to the Tortage area, which is also a number of hours, although a bit different game from what is outside Tortage. Champions Online is restricted to the Millenium City crisis zone (the tutorial zone), where someone typically would spend their first 5-6 levels, but in theory possible here to stay until 15. I do not know what the restrictions are for Warhammer Online, have not tried that game.

I guess it is a sign of the times that it becomes more difficult to compete in the MMO space – go back a couple of years and many MMOs were probably doing ok financially even if there were not big blockbuster successes. In the last 2-3 years it has been more of a mixed bag, at least that is how it appears.

I would not be surprised if we relatively soon will see that almost all games will have their first part “free” in some way and unlimited in time, to get people to try it.

Metaplace services closing down – what to do with user generated content?

December 22, 2009 1 comment

I got an email from that the service will close down on January 1st, and Raph Koster also mentions this on his blog. Metaplace as a company will still be around, so they will look into other ways to use their technology. In the metaplace forum posts they also mention some downsizing unfortunately. Hopefully those people can find new interesting anf fun jobs.

I am probably one of those people that is the reason the service is closing down – I like the idea of user-generated content and was curious what it was all about. But after trying it out late in the beta I did not really give it much more chance. Why I did not continue I am not 100% sure, but there were a few things that comes to mind.

The art style was a bit too “cute” for me from what I did see – should perhaps not be a big deal, but I remember not liking this part. At the same time as I tried this I was also playing around with Mission Architect in City of Heores/Villains. While MA is likely more limited than the Metaplace toolset in what can be done, I still preferred that one.

Mission Architect for me was probably more fun because it was more focused on creating content in a context that I enjoyed – the Rogue Isles and Paragon City. I think felt too generic perhaps, from the start. As I did continue to work with Mission Architect some of the limitations became apparent and one would wish for more control options.

I think that a path where one starts in some familiar context and step by step increases the abilities of what can be done might be able to gain more traction. Then people can gain confidence and stop exploring and expanding at their own comfort level. In its purest and most flexible form it may only gain the true enthusiasts, I suspect.

Mission Architect quickly had many thousands of story arcs/missions created, but there a problem is actually finding the content because it was too much. And likewise for content creators the problem would be that for the majority almost no-one would find or play their creations. The search tools has improved, but it is still a problem. And with a number of people creating content to maximize their progress in the game rather than tell a story of some kind, there has also been a clash between these different mindsets – the min/max mentality and the story-telling mentality.

I do believe in the concept of user-generated content, but I think it has to be part of something else, not just stand-alone. The toolset to experience the content probably also must be adequate for the content that has been generated. If there are thousands of content entities to choose from, I need something along the lines of Google or other similar search tools to help find interesting content, whatever interesting might mean.

I do hope Raph Koster and the others at Metaplace find a new way to use their technology and toolsets. It is tricky to find the right balance to apply it in the real world.

Champions on the phone

December 19, 2009 1 comment

Cryptic has released an application for the iPhone called Champions Companion. It provides a couple of features which seem to be roughly the same that they provide through the Cryptic web site also:

  • Viewing your characters’ profiles – power selection, items, portraits
  • Managing friend lists, see who is online
  • Send/receive in-game email
  • View news and annoucements
  • View friends’ activity streams – this seems to be the various social activity commands that are available, connecting to facebook, twitter, raptor etc.

I don’t have an iPhone and do not plan to get one, but I do think this is something we are going to see more of in general and it will likely expend to some other mobile devices as well.

Game discussions tend to talk about various details in game mechanics, but I think this type of connection with the game and the rest of the world are more significant than whether a certain power is too weak or too strong, or the drop rate of some item etc. Good work, Cryptic!

It will be interesting to see what you will provide in this area for Star Trek Online also.

Categories: Champions Online

Chrome at work

December 11, 2009 1 comment

No game post this time, just noting that I can now use my favourite browser at work as well. Chrome has been available for Windows for a while and I use it all the time at home.

At work I primarily run Linux on my laptop and run any Windows software that might be needed in a virtual machine.  But I do not go into Windows just for browsing.

But since a few days ago Chrome is available in a beta release for Linux (w00t), so I am happy. And I did enjoy the xkcd inspired description 🙂

Categories: Other

So 2010 then…SciFi MMOs?

December 10, 2009 5 comments

Over a year ago I wrote about that 2009 could potentially be the year of SciFi MMOs.  Well, that did not quite haappen.

Of more than 10 games mentioned there are only two that has been released this year – Champions Online and Fallen Earth. Personally I do like both games and I am glad that there was something non-fantasy released. But for the rest, maybe there are some hope for next year?

  • Stargate Worlds seems to more or less have died, or at leat gone into hibernation. There has been rumors that the developers switched to work on a shooter instead named Stargate:Resistance. Probably not much hope here.
  • Jumpgate Evolution is in beta it seems, so there is at least a somewhat high probability that it will show up before the end of 2010.
  • Black Prophecy from Reakktor (makers of Neocron) is not yet in beta and seems to aiming for a similar target to Jumpgate Evolution I think. The screenshots look nice.
  • Earthrise does look promising to me and may be a future rival to Fallen Earth, both being post-apocalyptic and a bit sandboxy. This one probably has the edge in terms of graphics, ramains to be seen what the gameplay will be.
  • Mechscape is no more. Instead Jagex, the makers decided to start with a new/different MMO instead, although still with a SciFi oriented theme – Stellar Dawn.  This may just be a matter of changing the name, or perhaps a bit more. Not exactly crystal clear.
  • Star Trek Online – this game is currently in closed beta and scheduled for release in February 2010. This is the game that is probably most certain to be released in 2010 of the titles mentioned in this post. I am not a Trekkie or a big Star Trek fan, but I am interested in seeing what Cryptic will come up with, since the time in development has been relatively short compared to many other MMOs.
  • Blackstar was a SciFi MMO in development by Space Time Studios, but after NCSoft dropped out as a publisher they struggled. Not sure what state this game is not, but they seem to have a vampire-themed “freemium” MMO  in an alpha stage as far as I can tell, Empire of Night. And they seem to have started to do stuff on iPhone as well.

Not mentioned in my 2009 post, but probably worth mentioning here (maybe there will be something in 2010…):

  • Global Agenda – shooter/spy action MMO in SciFi setting.  This one is in beta now and seem to be progressing well. I liked their No Elves video and the game does look neat, although not quite sure if this will be the game for me.
  • Star Wars – The Old Republic. Many people seem to be excited about this one. I think this may still be uncertain for 2010, although they do seem to do a good job marketing wise. I have only briefly played one Bioware game before (Neverwinter Nights), so I do not share the built-in enthusiasm many other seem to have here. But I am curious to see what they do with the Star Wars franschise.

Hopefully most of these that are still worked on will release sometime in 2010…

The social soloer

December 6, 2009 8 comments

In the eternal solo vs team debate around MMOs there are sometimes arguments that playing solo is somehow not social and that teaming up is the way to be social.

I find that teaming in MMOs inheritely have very little to do with social activities. I am social with people I choose to be social with. Being part of a team in an MMO is an organised way for a few people to reach a somewhat common goal, but so is taking the Metro to work.

In fact, there are plenty of occasions where teaming forces me to be less social than I was solo. Playing solo I have much better control of how my time is spent and I can choose when and how and who to interact with. In a team there may be less chance to do so, especially in PUGs where people are somewhat unknown entities. You may have to put more focus on the game mechanics and what other people are doing – if you do not know them well that will take extra effort.

I do like to team up though, either with friends or when there is some more interesting content to be experienced in a team formation. In the latter case the team could be real people, or NPC allies. Real people matter when the AI is not good enough.

The point here is that teaming is something that has very little to do with actual social interaction in games. It may happen, but it is not because people happen to be in a team. There is certainly enjoyment from team play also, but that is a different kind of enjoyment.

Categories: MMO Games

No-one wants to be a hero…

December 6, 2009 Comments off

..but everyone wants to be treated like a hero.

From time to time there are comments saying that “Everyone wants to be a hero” and that MMOs fails to deliver on that compared to single-player games. I think that is male cattle poop. If everyone really wanted to be a hero, we would see a lot more chivalry, good deeds and amazing communities.

But in the end what everyone wants is the hero’s reward, the bystanders’ reaction and celebration as if there had been a heroic deed – be it other players or NPCs. How to get there does not matter and consequences can be ignored.

And that is ok – sometimes. MMOs have the versatility as game type to allow many different gameplay which may or may not include other people in various ways. That is their strength and what they can allow to be rewarded in many different ways. Heroes may happen, but does not have to be there.

Categories: MMO Games