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2011 and SciFi MMOs

March 20, 2011 3 comments

Back in both 2008 and 2009 I wrote some posts about the following year perhaps being the year of SciFi MMOs. Schedules changed, games got cancelled etc.

However, when I was thinking about the SciFI MMO situation and that I prefer that to fantasy MMOs, I realized that at least for me, it has come true. SciFi is a rather broad term and when looking at what I play, it is only SciFi MMOs really.

Crysalis space station (Black Prophecy)

  • Star Trek Online. Definite space, hi-tech and pyjamas-wear SciFi. I play it perhaps once per week on average and I enjoy it every time.
  • Fallen Earth. Post-apocalyptic theme, a bit more low-tech. Had a short break now, but went in again after the 1.8 patch. It has a low intensity pace for me, which is a nice change to some of the other games.
  • Black Prophecy. It may be argued if it is an MMO or not, but I do like the dogfight style space combat and the game looks great. I really hope the storyline will continue to develop after the prologue.
  • City of Heroes. My eternal MMO additiction. Perhaps borderline what some may consider SciFi, but it definitely fulfills the requirement for fictional science in my book. Best casual team friendly MMO available.
  • Champions Online. Does not have the story background and character & faction attraction that I see in City of Heroes, but good for brief visits and some fun combat.

Bye bye, Tyi NPC

That is not to say I intend to keep it only SciFi-themed. I have made brief visits lately to fantasy side (Guild Wars) and I am looking forward to horror/myth reality theme in The Secret World whenever that is released as well as Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars is a really good fantasy game and Guild Wars 2 of course looks very interesting.

But I am also really curious to see how Blackstar will turn out on Android; will probably get a tablet at some point with Honeycomb (Android 3.0). At that point I might revisit Vendetta Online again also.

Things I did not do this weekend

February 20, 2011 Comments off

This Sunday I decided to write few short notes about things I do not do, instead of writing about the MMO gaming I did (that is saved for another post). So on to a list of things I did not do..

No Fir Bolg were hurt this weekend, honestly!

Play Wurm Online

I like the sandbox approach of Wurm, I really do. But I realized it will take me ages to accomplish things I want to do, plus for some tasks I would need somewhat long game sessions. This would mean sacrificing more play time in the other MMOs also and I am already stretching my time. So Wurm will have to go on hold for a while.

Play Istaria

I actually downloaded the game client and set up an account, while doing some other things on the computer – but no time yet to play the actual game. Will see if there will be time another weekend.

Avoid Earthrise

I actually logged in and tried to play, for a short bit. Masthead had a server maintenance break on February 17th that was said to last for about 8 hours. I logged in afterward that to see if I noticed any difference. I saw fewer people and same performance issues as before. Since I had logged off a bit out in the wilderness I had to fight my way back to some inhabited area, was not a fast process. I was attecked by another player though a bit closer to the northern camp, so I decided to just let him kill me – I was tired of struggling through mobs with horribly unresponsive controls. Resurrected in camp and logged off. Will wait until they actually provide some patch or anything else that will improve the game – there has been no updates so far since the release.

Read blog posts about Rift and World of Warcraft

I typically avoid pure World of Warcraft blog posts; be it people who are positive or negative about the game – I am not interested in either. Rift is also a game that I have started to avoid blog posts about. I am sure there are lots of intersting things to say about the game prior to its release. Personally I am more interested in seeing what the discussion will be some months/weeks after release – then I might start to look at posts again.

Complete Demonflame adventure pack

I started to play the Demonflame adventure pack in Champions Online for the first time. I like it and will write something more about it after completion.

Use the same graphics card all weekend

My Nvidia Geforce 9800 GTX+ had an identity crisis and a partial breakdown. It still displayed a picture, but was no longer recognized as an Nvidia device. After various attempts of jogging its identity back to normal I gave up and bought a new Nvidia card instead, a Geforce 560 Ti this time instead.

Triple superhero weekend

January 30, 2011 4 comments

This weekend I decided to focus the playtime on superhero/supervillain activities and thus played the three superhero MMOs I have active; City of Heroes, Champions Online and DC Universe Online.

City of Heroes

In City of Heroes it was double XP weekend, so that meant that the max level characters took a rest and some of the other characters got some playtime instead. There were two characters I put a bit of focus on and that was Don Charge, my electricity hero dominator and Tsu Han, my villain scrapper (kinetic energy/willpower).

Read more…

New Champions Online live today

January 25, 2011 4 comments

So today is the new Champions Online update with the new payment option goes live, called Champions Online: Free-for-all. I hope it works out well for Cryptic with this transition.

There are already enough MMOs for me at the moment and in the pipeline, so will not jump into Champions again directly now. But with a lifetime subscriptions there is no rush for me anyway.

 

Categories: Champions Online

Champions Online revamp release date

January 11, 2011 2 comments

A recent email from Cryptic announced that their payment model revamp of the game (also referred to as “F2P”) will be released on January 25th, i.e. in 2 weeks from now.

Information about this revamp can be found here.

As a lifetimer of the game the payment model update is not really affecting me, other than that I will start to receive Cryptic points to spend in the C-store. But the do seem to make some content updates that may be interesting though.

Also I do wonder if they will still let the cryptic points be shared between Champions Online or split in different types, same as Turbine did with LOTRO and DDO. The probably separate them, otherwise it would be nice to spend some in STO and others in CO – neither game has enough in their C-stores that would make me use all these points, at least as it is now.

Categories: Champions Online

Champions Online diversifies its business model (that F-thing)

October 28, 2010 6 comments

Joining a couple of the fantasy-themed MMOs that has been around a bit, Chmapions Online will now in early 2011 change to include a subscriptionless option (you know, that F-thing).

Players will be divided into Silver and Gold players, with gold being the regular subscription option pretty much and silver the new option without a subscription fee, but with some restrictions. A lot of thje info about this can be found at the Champions F2P web page.

Looking at the feature matrix the main features that the silver players will not have seem to be a number of customisation options and the adventure packs. I think this approach makes a lot of sense for Champions – the people who loves to have have a lot of customisation options and thinks that this is important is a key target audience for Champions. This is also one of the areas where the game is pretty strong.

What is also interesting is that they seem to aim to (re-)introduce archetypes, which has a reasonably fixed set of powers available to them. In a way this sounds like they are going back to the approach they had in City of Heroes, although it is probsbly not going to end up exactly like that. I think this can potentially be quite good; even in games which has a lot of customisation options (e.g. City of Heroes, Guild Wars etc) there are many players that look for something proven or that fits a certain style rather than experimenting too much themselves. Hopefully there will still be some element of choice, even if it is limited. I think this is a good move for the game.

There seem also to be some plans on changing the zones a bit – the Desert zone will not longer be one of the options available directly after the tutorial, instead one can go to Canada or to Millenium City Westside. So the early Millenium City content seems it will be dropped a few levels possibly, while some Desert content will have the levels raised a bit.

Not sure how much different the play experience will be – I’d rather see that they drop levels entirely or at least partially. But perhaps this is intended to rearrange content a bit so that some weak level ranges get a bit more variation.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this works out. I am quite sure that part of this plan is to have this in place by the time DC Universe Online releases .

Categories: Champions Online

Champions as a CORPG

October 16, 2010 2 comments

Champions Online is an interesting game. It has a number of neat features in an MMO perspective, such as a shared world, almost total flexibility in selecting powers for a character, extensive costume creator, fast-paced combat with a few twists compared to regular MMO combat (blocking, charge, maintain etc), free selection of character names, social media connections, on the fly change of roles etc.

However, it also suffers from other features (IMHO), such as a mission grind – too many missions that becomes more or less required to progress and too little variation among those. Other features that have been introduced (crafted travel powers, titles/perks and some seasonal events) seem to encourage activities with a grindy flavour.

In spring of 2009 when some information about the game was revealed I was pleased to hear that Cryptic intended to have a quite limited hotbar – only 7 slots. My throughts back then immediately went to Guild Wars, where one has 8 slots. This worked very well and I was hoping that there would be something similar in Champions.

This turned out not to be the case. Instead of the freedom of putting together various skills for different purposes as in Guild Wars, characters are locked in a somewhat rigid power choice structure. It is possible to change, but at a cost and not so easily. Not surprisingly players asked to increase the number of hotbar slots, which they did to 14.

A problem here I think was that Cryptic was in a level-based MMO mindset here.  I would assume that the original idea was that people would pick a number of powers, but pick different powers for different roles. For a specific role 7 powers would be sufficient.

But if this thinking and other of the nice features they have were squeezed into a a regular MMO level progression it does not mesh so well, IMHO.

Guild Wars never claimed to be an MMO and referred to itself as a CORPG (competitive/cooperative online Role playing game) as I recall. The exact acronym does not matter though, but the key thing I think in Guild Wars case was that wanted to go in a different path with the game than Everquest, Everquest 2, Blizzard’s MMO and other similar games.

This is a path I believe Champions should have taken also; more inspiration from games like Guild Wars and avoid many run-of-the-mill MMO features.

Imagine if they had kept their original 7-slot hotbar, dropped leveling completely or restricted it to a few levels (e.g. 14-15) and fewer attribute/characteristic boosts. Most powers would be obtained as rewards for various tasks, perhaps tied into missions in the same realm. E.g. if you want dark sorcery powers you do missions related to that and some in-game characters with such powers – at least powers from the higher tiers as it is today.

Suddenly most of the content could be made available to everyone to be played in pretty much any order or preference or skipped entirely. The crisis zones could still be there as in introduction to new zones, but one would not need to work through a level progression more than a slightly extended newbie experience to try out any of the new areas.

In a sense this is where Cryptic has been going with the newest content additions after Vibora Bay, since they are available for level 11+. But there is still a need to follow a certain path today to progress your characters, with not too much room for deviations. This hurts the game experience IMHO.

In many ways I think a game more along the throughts that went into the Guild Wars game design would have suited Champions as a game better. Changing that would make some significant changes to the game though – perhaps that would be a new Star Wars Galaxies NGE experience, or would it be a new DDO experience, or something else?

As a life-time subscriber to Champions I did not spend that money because I thought the game was the best game ever; I did it because I had a belief that Cryptic was the most likely one to make a game that I would be inclined to play for a long time.

Today I am less inclined to put faith in a specific company, but rather a combination of company and the individuals that are part of that company. Which may be difficult to sort out – talk is cheap, proper execution is a different matter.

I applaud Cryptic’s work with the latest MMO releases (Champions Online and Star Trek Online) with that they have tried some different approaches to not building many-years projects with increasing costs. They seem now also have reached an insight that they will have trouble sticking to a traditional MMO model and do that as well, which seems to be applied to the Neverwinter Nights project. Good for them!

I still hope that they would do something about Champions though. But I am not sure Cryptic/Atari would want to gamble that cost.

A charged champion

July 16, 2010 2 comments

When Champions Online released I was all over it and I loved the game – despite some flaws I found the combat quite fun and a mix of great and so-and-so missions. After about 4 months the activity dropped significantly and suring the first half of the year it did not get much play time. I had maybe 14-15 alts and the lack of variation in the mission options did take its toll.

Recently I have begun to reacquaint myself with the game again – this time pretty much only playing one character. I still do not think I can stomach too much altitis in the game at the moment.

Since I have been playing an electricity stalker in City of Heroes/Villains I thought why not try electricity this time in Champions also? It was a powerset I had not really tried much before in the game.

Dr Charge getting ready to electrocu...save the world!

Said and done, I created a Dr Charge. I skipped tutorial and headed into the Canadian crisis zone. From there I continued to Canada and the Southwest Desert for the initial 15 levels. When I first started playing Champions most of the characters received some kind of defensive passive skill – regen was common, but also others were used. This time I decided to go all out offensive though and see how that worked out.

I started out with the two initial powers you get when you select Electricity at character creation –  Electric Bolt (energy builder) and Chain Lightning. This was working so-and-so. I added more passive powers later – Ionic Reverberation and Electric Form. At some point here I realised that charging Chain Lightning to full did not do so much more damage on a single enemy, but it was more likely to jump to other enemies also. However, in a number of cases it was better/quicker for me to just shoot short bursts on a single target. Using this as a variation it started to play out much nicer. I also switched from Guardian role to Avenger role, boosting damage. Supposedly a bit more of a glass cannon than Guardian since defensive powers would be less effective. But since I do not have much of defensive powers anyway it did not matter much in that regard. I pretty much use Avenger all the time now.

Later I picked up Thunderstrike, which was quite nice as an initial attack. It would pretty much one-shot minions and drop the health of a villain to half, so it was a good start for a fight. It has a long recharge time though, so not something that would be spammed.  Next one that I picked up was Sparkstorm – a really fun power! It is a maintained power which essentially electrocutes enemies around, causing them to shake, drop health and possibly get knocked back.  At this point the character has really started to shine, it is pretty fun and the powers can be quite devastating. The latest power I have picked up now is Gigabolt – quite powerful, will see how I end up using that one.

Electrocuting the minions of Mr Zombie

Most of the missions are the same as I remembered them up to and including teen levels. There was a new instanced mission in Canada though which I had not encountered before (saving some hikers in a cave) and they had changed the mission Dead Alive. This included defeating a Mr Zombie. Originally he was placed out in the open and thus pretty much camped by a lot of people – in particular during a period of time when he dropped a rare item. At that time he was constantly camped by level 40s who had nothing better to do than to try to get this drop.

To my surprise (a pleasant one), Mr Zombie has now moved away – he now has his own instanced dungeon where one has to fight through hordes of low level zombies before picking a fight with him. I think this was an improvement for this mission.

Right now Dr Charge has reached level 18 and is roaming around in Millenium City. Most of the missions there are the same, as far as I can tell. I do not try to do all missions though and avoid the ones I definitely think is boring. I still do missions which have lower level than me at this point, so it works out fairly well so far.

While part of the experience right now is going in old tracks, I must say that I quite enjoy it. The new content like Serpent Lantern is probably something I am going to tackle once I get to some of the more rough spots. I am in no rush, so perhaps there they release more new content also before I hit some of those.

Unfortunately it seems that my Super Group is not that active, so there was not really anyone from there to team up with. Will have to see how that part works out.

Categories: Champions Online

The Serpent Lantern

May 21, 2010 2 comments

Cryptic has unveiled some details about their upcoming advanture pack, The Serpent Lantern.

As one might guess from the name, the stories in this pack is around the organisation VIPER and the article on the Champions wbe site outlines a few pieces of what to expect.

I am glad that they have started to create these adventure packs: it is a kind of content that provides a bit more choice to the player. The pack can be played at almost any level and with any size of team – it will scale accordingly And it is repeatable if one wants to play it multiple times.

I really hope they continue to add content in general in this form, even if it is not everything. This approach give player more choice of what to do in the game, at least at some point in the future where a number if adventure packs hopefully has been released – and that at practically any point in time of the superhero career.

A good move, hopefully this works out well for them.

Spring cleaning and story telling

April 5, 2010 1 comment

When I started to think about what to write in this post I originally thought about talking about spring; the weather outside was starting to get warmer and most of the snow had melted away. But this morning I woke up to a white landscape outside – a couple of centimeters of snow had fallen during the night and continued during the morning. Spring suddenly seemed to have escaped.

I started a bit of spring cleaning in my City of Villains/Heroes account though – across the two European ENglish-speaking servers (Defiant and Union) I had around 30 different characters.  So I started to play a couple of the characters that were not at max or high level to see whether they were worth keeping.

I honestly expected to not like most of those I played, but I found that my experience with them now were in some cases much better than I remembered. Perhaps there had been changes to the game that made the difference – some literally had been years since they were played. While I deleted a couple of them I also got more reason to play – there were a few that were quite fun to play and with fairy different play styles.

Martial arts stalker Tsu Han about to strike the Superfreak - really!

Two of the strong points with characters in City of Villains/Heroes is that they can generally feel that they excel in some area and feel powerful. Not compared to other players, but in the context of the PvE environment.  Sometimes this does not quite come into play until you play in a somewhat large team, but when it is there it provides a nice feeling of satisfaction.

Compared to other superhero MMOs another thing I like about the game is that you can do characters that are a bit vicious, dark- and insidious-looking characters, with a perhaps dubious nature. I think when it comes to portrayal of a characters personality, City of Villains/Heroes is still the one at the top – even if other games provide some more detailed control.

It seems to me that there is renewed activity in the game – more people seem to be playing than some months ago and I have also encountered a number of new players. The latter is quite refreshing to see and it is nice to see that there are people that see and experience a number of the missions for the first time. Good times!

I guess and hope that with Issue 17 (a number of changes, including the new graphics) and later the Going Rogue expansion there will be additional interest in the game.

When play time is limited, as my time as been for the past months, what activities are done in the game becomes a bit more inportant. The stories have always been an important factor for me. In Champions Online there are some quite nice stories in there, told in a quite visual fashion. That is also mixed up with less exciting mission stories. But one of the strong points I believe is the Nemesis system – there are some quite nice missions that are part of the nemesis system.

This weekend my character Toy Master picked up a nemesis mission while swimming around in the underwater empire of Lemuria. Toy Master’s nemesis Steeleye had sent a troop to eliminate Toy Master, which failed. This led to a discovery that there was some secret facility in Canda run by Steeleye, and Toy Master headed off to set things straight.

At the facility there was some commotion; the alarm had triggered and a number of villains attacked Toy Master. As any secret faciulity should have, there was also a mad scientist there – he was working on creating clones of the Millenium City mayor! Toy Master defeated the villains and the initial group clones, shutting down the cloning chambers. He also discovered that a few citizens were held captive for experiments and was also attacked by some early attempts of the cloning process – deformed versions of the mayor attacking the hero.

Fighting the giant mayor clone

Steeleye had already left though and was now in the process of capturing the mayor himself. Off from Canada to Millenium City and the city hall, jumping in through the ceiling. In the city hall a number of fights with various villains and henchmen in Steeleye’s service happened, including a giant clone of the mayor. In the end Toy Master defeated everyone, except Steeleye himself who managed to escape.  Good fun!

In Star Trek online there is also a number of story oriented mission arcs, which can be nice to follow. In this case there was a story (Divide et Impera) about a suspected weapons of mass destruction creation at a Romulan base, where on the surface it was just a medical research facility. The starfleet admiral leading the investigation insisted that they were hiding something though. As a liaison with te admiral you obey the orders and apply pressure on the Romulans in a less diplomatic fashion.

Fighting on the Romulan base

This story is a good example where it would have been nice to have multiple paths to reach the end of the story and perhaps different endings. Without spoiling it for anyone who has not played it, after a while it becomes apparent where things are heading – which all the more can be a bit frustrating if you would have liked to try different options. Nice story, but these stories would shine more if there were not just one path through the story.

Unfortunately this is too common in MMOs still. It is a complex topic to address, but would like to see some more thoughts on designing mission stories that at least give a perception of player choice.

One game that has a somewhat unique approach to story-telling among MMO-type games is Dungeons & Dragons Online. I think the story-oriented dungeons in there were quite nice and that the focus on completion of the dungeon giving rewards and XP a nice appraoch. For a number of other reasons the game did not quite stick with me, even though I tried it 2-3 times after it was originally released.

The new version with the revamped business model to a “free to play with item shop” approach I had not tried though. In the past year my fantasy MMO exposure has been limited and when it comes to high fantasy downright avoided it. Now after a number of months I feel a bit better and have no longer an urge to bang my head against the wall as soon as I see an elf or a dwarf. In moderate doses I can still tolerate it.

So I decided to try out DDO. Again it is one of the more promising MMO-type games when it comes to story-telling it seems to me, so it would be a good choice to try. So far I have had two shortish sessions and I like what I see – the game experience is in general much nicer than I remembered it and the strong parts about the dungeon story-telling still seem to be there. Probably old news to many of you, but this was my first dive into fantasy MMO for quite a while and it seems it may be a good choice. We will see how it works out.