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Archive for January, 2010

Trekking into space

January 31, 2010 5 comments

So this weekend the headstart for all Star Trek Online pre-orders started and time to play the game for real. I had not played the game since closed beta, so was a bit eager to see if they had actually changed something or if it was similar to the end of closed beta. I think it has changed a bit, and most of it for the better, I am happy to say.

Zorian Zugy, science officer commanding U.S.S. Tactical Grace

Zorian Zugy, science officer commanding U.S.S. Tactical Grace

My start in the game was to recreate one of the character from the beta period, Zorian Zugy.  Or at last as close as I could get. The standard races are all fine I am sure, but not being a Trekkie I did not have any preferences for the existing options. And if you have the option to make your own race, why not do that? Now, I have not figured out the details about Zorian’s background yet, but I will work on that.

Entering the tutorial I found that the STO world was a much busier place than in closed beta. There were over 1000 instances for the tutorial zone, judging by the chat channel indicators. Probably not too many players in each though. But certainly looks like a fair amount of people – that was European evening, so probably a lot of people on US side had not jumped into the game yet.

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Categories: Star Trek Online

Cryptic language

January 30, 2010 Comments off

Recently Cryptic’s State of the Game for Champions Online showed some good information about recent updates and alos a bit what was going to come in the near future. For me personally, the difficulty setting was actually what I might be looking forward to the most – that is a great feature of City of Villains/Heroes and it is nice to see that Cryptic continue to reintroduce good features that preferably should have been included from start. Better late than never. They also seem to re-introduce the flashback feature from their old game.

What has caused the most stir lately is that the announced new zone, Vibra Bay, might actually need to be paid for. People are a bit upset about this, given that the game has not had a huge amount of content to start with and the content additions so far has not been that much.

As a lifetime subscriber, am I upset about this announcement? No, not really – yet. Vibra Bay is said to be level 37-40 content. Currently I only have one character high enough to play such content and I have not played all of the content that is already there around these levels. My concern is rather that the content below those levels are quite limited so that most things have to be redone when leveling alts.

If they had said that Vibra Bay would have been a level 15-40 zone, 15-35 zone or something like that it would have been more interesting. Right now it will be an update I am simply not that interested in, free or paid for.

What do worry me more though is Cryptic seem to manage to upset people fairly regularly with statements that just make things worse. Daeke’s statement above is a prime example. Intended to remove speculation, but actually just causing more controversy and speculation, just of a different kind. A more proper approach would be to shut up until all information can be presented, for example:

  • What the actual price for this new zone will be
  • If it will be the same price for everyone, or differentiated
  • Size of the zone, content-wise
  • And also nice, the general policy to what kind of updates will be included in the subscription fee, and what can be expected to be paid for

Cryptic is perfectly free to set their own prices and policy and do not have to do it the same way as some other MMO game companies. But I really wish that they could be more upfront with what one can expect to get for the money. The same problem exists with many other MMOs, in particular the subscription-based ones. Cryptic is just a prime example right now, also since they seem to deviate from their past policies with City of Villains/Heroes.

I am actually positive about more differentiation in prices and payment models – but really, the companies should really be upfront with their customers or potential customers here.

Categories: Champions Online

Cosmic spanking

January 24, 2010 Comments off

Yesterday my supergroup (or technically multiple supergroups) of The Older Gamers (The Omega Guard, The Omega Garrison supergroups) scheduled an event to go and beat up some of the cosmic class villains that roam around in the Champions universe. With people from all over the globe in the supergroup there was not a time that would suite everyone – this time the event suited primarily European and American people.

The plan was to start with the god Kigatillik in the frozen Canadian north, continue with the flaming giant gorilla Qwijibo and the giant dinosaur Teleiosaurus on Monster Island and round off with the hulk-like Grond in the Southwest desert.

A little bit late everyone interested gathered and we ended up with two teams, 8-9 characters in total.  In the northern part of the Canadian zone Mr Kigatillik hangs around. It must be a bit boring being a god in a place like this – hardly anyone visits and he does not seem to move around – just hang around in one spot with a couple of guard dogs (big things with big jaws). I am quite sure he was happy to see us to break the monotomy, even though he continued to try to insult us about being weak beings etc. That goes with job description of many gods, I think.

Kigatillik became green of envy of our fantastic outfits

Kigatillik became green of envy of our fantastic outfits

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Categories: Champions Online

What happens to the urge

January 19, 2010 2 comments

In MMOs in particular the games are designed to make us do stuff, sometimes for a long time, to achieve some virtual goal or item. A Ysharros writes in her blog even if you are not really particularly interested in a certain achivement or activity, the game environment manages for us virtual mice to go for that virtual cheese, somewhere in the maze – and we get some satisfaction out of it.

In my work life I sometimes have to spend a fair amount of time out of the country, such as now when I am pretty much only in my home country during weekends. Being an MMO enthusiast, one thought would be that in those cases the gaming sessions when I am home would be more, longer etc to make up for that time. But instead I find that it is the other way around.

In these periods I am less inclined to run after the virtual cheese and I find gaming sessions can be even shorter or not as fun as when I can play more regularly, even though I may do the same type of activities in the games.

So I think that much the gameplay in MMOs work because they manage to condition us to play them regularly – without that there less urge to do the various activities presented to us. At least as many are created now. Being more casual friendly in the MMO world I think currently means that one need to spend less time each day, but the activities often still require some regularity to give us a virtual boost.

Categories: MMO Games

Releasing an MMO too late

January 17, 2010 3 comments

Pretty much every time a new subscription-based MMO is released or is about to be released there is a lot of comments about “game is released too soon”, “it would need another X months”, “it is missing vital features”. These comments have been for many years – if the answers were that easy, one would think that would have picked up on that, right?

The issue here is of course that there are no easy answers like that – repeating comments like that hardly brings any new insight and may very well be wrong anyway.

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Cryptic Trekking

January 12, 2010 11 comments

So has the come time also for us mere mortals to comment on the first MMO venture into the Star Trek universe. Cryptic’s Star Trek Online (STO) is an interesting one for a few reasons – one is obviously the Star Trek universe itself and how it will be received by Trek fans.  Another interesting part is that the game have been in development a relatively short time; Cryptic acquired the Star Trek game license in January 2008. With 2 years of effort compared to 5+ years that some other big MMO titles have taken, it will be interesting to see how it works out.

Space - the final frontier. These are the voyages of the blogger Sente

Space - the final frontier. These are the voyages of the blogger Sente

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Categories: Star Trek Online

So that was 2009, a glorious MMO year

January 2, 2010 3 comments

I have seen a few posts from various bloggers about how bad 2009 was for MMOs. Personally I do not quite agree. For me personally there were more interesting new titles released in 2009 than in 2008. But also considerations for a good/bad year should include existing games as well – new expansions and changes, different price and payment models etc.

Thoughout 2009 I have played/tried a few different MMO or MMO-type games:

City of Heroes/Villains, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Chronicles of Spellborn, Runes of Magic, Jade Dynasty, Project of Planets, Zero Online, Vendetta Online, Pirate Galaxy, Champions Online, Saga of Ryzom, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Fallen Earth, World of Kung Fu, Twelve Sky 2, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Shin Megami Tensei, FusionFall Online, GhostX – perhaps a few others also that I have forgotten about. Some of these would be an emphasis on tried rather than played though – for various reasons I barely completed the tutorial on some.

While otherwise limited in content updates, I loved when NCSoft/Paragon Studios released Mission Architect for City of Heroes/Villains. A really great feature! It was however plagued with being exploited by some and also in a sense too successful – too many story arcs and less than adequate search tools initially caused some trouble. While it is used by players today, it has perhaps not created the subscriber success that some may have hoped for. Still, it is an important step in making an innovative approach to MMO content a reality. I think that was one of the major milestones of 2009.

With the exception of Guild Wars, most of the fantasy titles I only played for short periods of time. Sometimes a bit grindy and with no special love for the fantasy genre, I gre tired of most of them quickly. Guild Wars has been lots of fun though – partially because it is a good game, but also very much due to the people of Tuesday Noob Club. Not played much lately though and the combination of real life schedule and lack of excitement for fantasy titles has contributed to that.

Just as I managed to totally avoid Warhammer Online last year I also totally avoided Aion this year, and World of Warcraft as usual. There simply has not been any compelling eason to consider playing either of the games.

Champions Online has received the bulk of my play time lately and for good reason – it is an excellent and fun game if you just want to mess around a bit, blow off some steam and get your mind of real life issues, just for a short bit. It is a good complement to other games or other activities.

I think most of the games I have played or tried I have not written much about – which is not to say that there are bad games. Sometimes it has just been bad timing, or some technical issue. I am glad that I have at least tried a fair number of games and see more of what is out there, rather than just focus on a few new Western subscription-based titles and live on the hope that the next big title with be it.