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Wrapping up 2011

January 1, 2012 Comments off

The year 2011 has ended and we have started with 2012. The past year has been interesting in a few ways for me, but perhaps more in areas outside of MMO gaming. While I have been writing a couple of blog posts the past year (123 according to WordPress) I must say that I have felt less inspired when writing posts for large chunks of time.

I used to hop around quite a bit in different MMOs, but this year it has settled down a bit – the past few months I have been pretty much exclusively playing City of Heroes.   The year started out with a few other titles though:

Earthrise

This game in theory had a lot of promise, or at least there was a picture painted that this could be an interesting and fun sandbox-style SciFi MMO. Closer to launch it showed many signs that this was a potential train wreck to be launched. I bought the game knowing that very well though, mainly because I wanted to support a non-mainstream developer, in case they had some good ideas.

The launch was indeed a train wreck and I was a bit disappointed looking more into detail of some actual gameplay elements – not as inspired as I had hoped it would be, not in areas I liked anyway. Even if  the performance and bugs were sorted out I do not think I would have enjoyed the game anyway, so that was it for me.

The current state of the game seems to be that the game still has some quality issues and that they have started a transition to a “free-to-play” model – no new accounts can be created from December 1st and this will be in effect until the “F2P” revamp is completed some time in 2012.

Wurm Online

Played this in the early parts of 2011. The open sandbox world was quite fascinating, but also consumed a lot of time. In the end I decided I did not have the desire to invest enough time in this game/world for it to feel worthwhile. Not sure if I will fo back to this particular game, but would definitely want to try something in the same sandbox spirit as Wurm.

Star Trek Online

Not a big fan of the Star Trek Universe, but I did enjoy creating my own races to play and making up some background and story for my characters. I played STO primarily a bit in the first couple of months of the year and also ended up playing on the Klingon side mainly – very much enjoyed playing my Klingon-sided engineer type (but my own race). I was very enthusiastic about creating missions with the Foundry also initially, but ended up now being anything completed. My inspiration for creating soemthign for the Star Trek universe ended up a bit lacking, although I did look into Klingon material (including the language) a bit as part of the research.

I will probably revisit the game when it changes its payment model.

Champions Online

Visited the geme a couple of times, mainly playing one character. I am a life-time subscriber, so the cryptic points keep piling up in the game. It has been ok to visit a few times, but for my spandex fix City of Heroes works so much better. At some point I should try out the content I have not treied out yet, but I have had difficulty building up enthusiasm to do so. Which is a shame perhaps.

Rift

A very hyped game in the early part of the year, which also is a well executed and polished game. I did avoid reading about the game consciously precisely because of all the hype and in late April/early May jumped in and tried the game. I liked many things with it, although I found the combat a bit annoying with the global cooldown timer and the skill trees which quickly cluttered up multiple hotbars. The soul system was nice, but I would have liked a different skill progression model within these souls.

Unfortunately for me, I signed up with a 6 month subscription. In June, after around 1  1/2 month of playing the game I quite quickly lost all interest in logging in and playing the game anymore. I had a brief attempt later in July to get back into the game, but could not muster up enough interest to keep playing. This was very similar to my play experience with LOTRO, which played out quite similar – although in that case I had pre-ordered and played in beta also. Lesson learned – do not sign up for a long payment period initially with a subscription-based fantasy game.

Star Legends

My only major visit into mobile MMO gaming and this on my Eee Pad – the screen is too small for my taste on a phone for these games. Was very fun to play for short periods of time, but after a while I lost interest. Still have the game installed, but rarely visit it any longer.

DC Universe Online

Bought this game for PS3 shortly after launch, primarily to see if there could finally be something MMOish to play on the household PS3 – which primarily is used to watch blu-ray movies. Dropped it quite quickly – not a DC fan and it felt like you had to be that to appreciate the content. The controls were really awkward to use also.

Reinstalled the game again on the PS3 after the “F2P” revamp and I thought the game was better now from a UI/control perspective – but could not find that much enthusiasm for the DC content. Maybe I will play it more – maybe.

Anarchy Online

My very first MMO. I jumped back into the game just prior to its 10th anniversary and I have had a pretty good time in the game, with some nice people. Still, the combat mechanics are quite different from what I appreciate nowadays, being too much auto-attack dependent. Funcom does not seem to spend much resources on the game currently, but have indicated that when the conversion to new engine for the game (same one that Age of Conan and The Secret World uses) is done _and_ they have done a profession revamp, they will do a relaunch effort for the game.

The graphics engine revamp is what mainly has been talked about, but I think the profession/combat revamp is just as important for the game, if they get it right. A new graphics engine can get people to come back or to try the game, but it is a profession gameplay revamp that may potentially keep them in the game. I have not played AO since I decided to focus on City of Heroes, but I hope to get back into the game at some point – hopefully Funcom gets to the point where the new engine and the revamp will be done during 2012.

Forsaken World

A quite polished fantasy/steampunk title from big Chinese MMO maker Perfect World. Same as Rift, this game is very well executed – just not something I could muster up continued interest for.

Black Prophecy

A SciFi space shooter kind of MMO. The initial PvE storyline part of the game had me hooked and the space combat is very well executed and fun. But the story part ended abruptly and then it was mission grinding and/or PvP. While some mission were quite enjoyable it became a bit too repetitive for my taste, so lost some interest here. Should get back into the game again at some point – if they have more of the story-oriented content that the game started with I would love to play that.

Star Wars Galaxies

Signed up for SWG again when I heard the announcement that they were going to shut down the game. Manged to play a bit in the game, primarily with some new characters I created. Really loved some parts which I remembered from the old days when i played the game, but also remembered why I ended up playing my particular combination of professions originally (ranger/creature handler) – that was one combination that did not feel grindy to me and which also supported scratching my exploration itch back then. It was not quite now.

I would have played the game longer, but a credit card related issue stopped my access to the game prematurely. I do not like the way SOE handled the shut down of my access; but at least my memory of the game is less coloured by what its current state was.

Gods & Heroes

Bought this when it was on sale from Steam, after a brief visit in beta. Looking at what Heatwave had eleased before Gods & Heroes I am not quite sure why they decided to with a traditional MMO route, perhaps someone thought they might be able to make some easy money on a game that was in beta when the original game company went belly-up. This was another of those game where I really could not muster up enough interest to keep playing (and paying).

City of Heroes

This is my main game and in the past few months my only game, pretty much. This part will be very brief here; most posts end up being about this game anyway. For good and bad, City of Heroes has evolved quite a bit over the years and at the same time been the same as well. The community aspect is important here, it is a game that feels like “home” to me more than any other MMO. It is the one game that I can be fairly sure to get a happy greeting from someone else when I log in and where most people I end up interacting with (friends or strangers) are for the most part friendly and nice to each other.

Other stuff, not gaming

A lot of other things has happened in this year, but not related to MMOs. In August I changed employer, after working for more than 12 years for an American software company.  I really liked my actual job there and the collegues I worked with, but it was also a position that required a lot of travelling to other parts of Europe, and a few times to Middle East. During very long periods I only saw my home area/town/country on weekends and impacted how I my non-work life was handled.

With my new employer I can do a similar job to what did before and enjoyed, but also pretty much work so I can get home every day, instead of staying in a hotel room.  It is a great company and a great group of new collegues.

My general fitness have had its ups and downs in recent years, but not stayed at a good level. In the past 11 months I have done a better job though with continued improvement and am in better shape now than a year ago, and also lost perhaps 17-18 kg. Still more to be done, but feels quite good.

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New starts and ends in the future

March 6, 2011 Comments off

This week saw a bit of playtime in four MMOs; somewhat short visits for each of them.

City of Heroes

First it has of course been the usual suspect City of Heroes. The past two weeks has mainly been with some of my not-yet-at-max-level characters; a mix of different archeypes which makes for good variation in gameplay. Since a bit before Going Rogue was released I have regularly attended the weekly Rikti Mothership raid on Sundays, but this weekend I passed. The past few weeks there has been so many people that an additional instance of the Rikti War Zone typically had been created because there wer too many people. And in particular the past 2-3 weeks the game performance has been really bad during the raid also; not too fun. So this weekend I passed on that.

Beating up U'Kon Gr'ai in mothership raid

Earthrise

The good thing about Earthrise is that the game performance is significantly better than at launch; it is actually playable. The bad thing is that performance is still not good, animations are choppy etc. I had managed to sort out with support so I would get my pre-order armor and my goal was to get enough battle points (= XP in Earthrise) to get my armor skill up to that I could use it. While it has been claimed that Earthrise is supposed to be a sanbox-type game, right now I think that is not true.  To get battle points one has to kill mobs and/or do missions that asks you to kill mobs. These can then be assigned to “buy” various skills. Most of the crafting skills have crafting points instead to buy skills with. But to get material to do come crafting with, one has to kill mobs – that is the only way currently (will be other ways later).

Right now the game feels like a grinders dream; if you are happy to grind mobs for hours and hours to progress, go for this game now. And if you get killed, you will drop all uninsured non-mission loot on the spot, free for anyone to grab. Fortunately there are some nice people in the game and I have had people pick up the stuff I dropped and given them back to me.

Despite the shortcoming the combat is fairly ok I think, with good performance it could be fun. And the world looks quite nice; although I think it does feel a bit sterile – it does not feel quite alive. The music played is pretty good, but is general music brought into the game – some of it was Laibach I think, or maybe a Laibach-inspired band.

I decided to cancel my subscription and come back in a couple of months to see how the game was then. However, the information fields for my subscription info said “N/A” in the fields, so I am not sure what that actually means. Choosing Cancel Subscription gave a success message (multiple times if you choose it multiple times), but did not change the status shown. So I do not know what the state actually is in their billing system – no confirmation mails or anything was sent either. Such bad handling is bound to get people a bit upset.

Star Trek Online

I really really like this game! It is story-focused and in addition to the Featured Episodes there are a number of nice story arc missions. I have pretty much avoided most of the generic missions (patrol this and that) and just played the story arc ones. And this has made my playtime a lot more fun in the game.

This weekend I also decided to create a Klingon-side character; so far I have only played Federation side. The content supposedly is still lacking in comparision to the Federation side, but I found the slight difference in tone and objective ( a bit more villainous, so to speak) to be quite fun and so far. And I love the Klingon voice over The target’s shields have failed – I don’t remember how that sounds on the Federation side, but it feels just right on the Klingon side I think.

Guild Wars

I also got a bit of time in Guild Wars again; I have barely played it in the past year and it was nice to get back in the game, even if just for a short bit this weekend. One of the new features I tried out was of course to just use heroes in a couple of missions; I also added some slots to bring in some of my other characters in the teams. So far I have slotted two out of three slots, with my necromancer and my Ritualist; they could pretty much be considered my “main” characters in the game. Will see what I do with the third slot.

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.

Earthrise players get an extra free month

February 16, 2011 Comments off

Right after the first launch weekend Masthead Studios promised that they would give some extra game time to players that had registered by February 11th. On the 11th they got a bit more specific about the extra time they would give:

Today is Friday and as we promised it is time to announce the additional game time. Everyone who has registered their key by February 11th will receive additional 30 days of free play. Thank you one more time for the understanding and support for making Earthrise an enjoyable experience.

Atanas Atanasov – Earthrise Producer

30 days extra is pretty nice.  Of course, with the state the game has been in now in the beginning it is understandable that they give a fair share of game time. They are essentially buying themselves another month to fix things.

Categories: Earthrise

Earthrise uses TSIC for hosting

February 14, 2011 2 comments

One of the attributed reasons for the lack of performance for Earthrise at launch was that their original deal for hosting the game did not happen and that they had to run the game on their beta test servers. I do not know if that is true, but now it seems they have signed a deal with TeliaSonera International Carrier for hosting Earthrise for them.

TSIC has a good track record and have Blizzard+Activision as prominent customers, so presumably the situation should get better for the game. It does not say when this will take effect though.

 

Categories: Earthrise

Earthrise launched

February 6, 2011 3 comments

February 4th was the launch day for Earthrise, but already a few days ahead it was possible to buy and download the game client. This worked quite well, smooth downloade followed by a patch later.

Come launch day, not everything went so smooth. My game key activated, but my special item key for buying before launch day did not activate. Looking at the forums, there seem to be a fair amount of people that had trouble with their keys and Earthrise support.

On to the game itself. Character creation is kind of ok, nothing spectacular, but enough so that not everyone looks alike – although with all the equipment added one does not see that much of the different characters… And the portrait in the character view on the screen does not look at all like the character itself, I guess there is just a generic picture there now.

At start the character is woken up in a facility (re-vesseled). There are some initial mission steps to get some armor equipped and then time to teleport out into the world. The character start on what seems to be an isolated island (seems to be a common theme for newbie zones in MMOs) and there are a couple of missions to get familiar with the different weapon types available.

Time to head to weapons training

Read more…

Categories: Earthrise

Masthead presents Earthrise roadmap and lifts NDA

January 25, 2011 1 comment

With a bit more than a week until the official release of Earthrise, Masthead Studios have presented a roadmap for things and features that will be added after launch during 2011. At the same time they also lift the NDA, so those that have been in the closed beta are free to talk about the game now. I have not been in the beta, did not even apply for it – so I am curious to see what people think.

Questions and answers are being fired off in the game forums, so far it seems a bit of a mixed bag to me – which does not surprise me at all. The exploration aspects seems good, crafting not as good as I had hoped. The number of active beta testers do not seem to have been that many, which perhaps is not the best sign.

I like that they actually presented some kind of roadmap and thus are to some extent upfront with features that are not in the game yet, before it is released.  This gives at least a bit of hope that they may have thought through the process of running a live game.

I think I will pick up the game during February either way, but might end up being a game I will play for a few weeks and then return to a couple of months later. It would not be the first time and not the last – I think this may even be the pattern for the majority of MMOs I have played in the past few years.

Categories: Earthrise