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Archive for December, 2009

Phasers Set to Hype

I haven’t been playing much of anything over this holiday season in the lead-up to Star Trek Online starting Open Beta in January. For me, half the fun of starting a new MMO is getting immersed in the lore, the community, the sites and podcasts and blogs that I’m going to visit for the duration, and this time is no different.

Most of my time these days is spent at the following:

Jupiter Colony: This is the forum for the Jupiter Frequency crew, who put out the STOked! podcast, of which I am also a fan. The people on this board are funny, friendly, and on top of their STO news, posting links with lightning reflexes. Most importantly, they are positive folks, which seems harder to find in a forum community these days.

The Older Gamers: This forum is less active, but I am sticking around because I guilded with TOG for Warhammer Online and I intend to guild with them again for STO. This is another nice, friendly crew and I look forward to being able to see some familiar faces/names when STO gets started.

Youtube: This has been an excellent source of leaked beta footage (spoilers ahoy!) in recent days, especially with user adarons (may his closed beta account rest in peace) who has done more to get me frothing about STO than even the official trailers.

MMORPG.com: The crew at MMORPG.com recently had their NDA lifted, so they have been doing a number of articles and features about STO that have opened the floodgates for even more curiosity and excitement. I enjoy camping out here, as long as I stay away from the forums….

…Which brings me to my main concern about STO: the community.

I am no longer worried about space or ground combat, or exploration content, or which pre-order gives which bonus or where I’ll fit into the holy trinity of ship design. I’m worried about the sheer levels of negativity that cloud the official forums, MMORPG.com forums, and Massively’s comment pages. I probably shouldn’t, because it’s not as though the comments have swayed my view of the game. I suppose I have a fear that the negativity will drive other people away, and I want to play with those people! The un-driven-away people, that is.

I’m just tired of the overuse of the word “fail” and the most dire predictions at the drop of a hat (or subscription). By no means do I think one can get a balanced view when surrounded by yes-wo/men and fangirls/boys all the time, but the dooming and glooming is too far over the top. It happens with such regularity now that I wonder if some of the people commenting even like any MMOs at all.

So I will be here, snug in friendly supportive communities who actually have hopes for a product to do well (and why wouldn’t I? Why would I want a product to fail just because I personally don’t enjoy it? Other people have families to feed, too, even Blizzard employees), and in the end keep my fingers crossed that there are simply more of Us than Them in the end.

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Mytheon: One to Watch

Mytheon is an upcoming F2P game that has slipped by my radar thus far, though I’m not sure why more people aren’t talking about it (or why TrueGames/Petroglyph isn’t promoting it more). Since MMORPG.com has now previewed it, color me officially interested. It sounds like some fantastical Gods and Heroes/Guild Wars/Wizard 101 hybrid – in all the good ways – and it’s apparently by the same folks who made Warrior Epic, which seemed polished in beta and upon release.

Note that they choose to describe Mytheon as an “Action RPG” rather than an MMORPG. I’m not particularly married to the MMORPG term at any rate; as long as I can play with my partner and my friends, you can call a game a trout for all I care.

I’ve signed up for closed beta; I’d love to see what others are saying and experiencing in the game. MMORPG.com’s review seemed positive, and that’s a hopeful sign.

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My gaming partner and I have been rather inactive on the MMO front recently, due to Real Life(tm) constraints. We play infrequently enough that we only racked up 7 days played out of our 14-day free Vanguard trial, and did not make it off the trial island during that time. I also logged on to the Allods Online beta a few times, playing a different race, class, and faction than I planned to at launch so as not to burn out; unsurprisingly I was then unable to form an attachment to the character I created specifically for its disposability (although those Gibberlings sure are cute).

The more I learn about Allods, the more I realize it won’t be a game I will be able to enjoy due to its open-world PvP and group/guild-driven content. It looks and plays beautifully and I wish it every success – especially in breaking the common stereotype of free-to-play game inferiority. Given the limited spans of time in which I have to play, however, I simply cannot get heavily involved in a game that requires large amounts of group collaboration to proceed. This will probably result in my playing anyway, but having several characters parked around level 20. This is actually fine with me.

We miss Vanguard, and intend to return to it at some time in some capacity, but with Star Trek Online on the horizon we don’t consider it worthwhile to potentially maintain two subscriptions for games we barely have time to play (again I register my protest with the subscription model for requiring me to make decisions like this). Instead I am brushing up on my STO information, watching vidcasts and leaked beta footage, reading every piece of news and every interview that the developers see fit to release.

The last time my better half was excited enough about an upcoming MMO to pre-order it was when Warhammer Online was about to be released, and we had nearly six months of rip-roaring fun in that game. This was before shifting populations, class imbalances, and the server-merging tango caused us to cancel our subscriptions. But on the scale of Game Chosen to Fun Had, he’s 1 for 1, so when my partner makes excited noises about commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise via Gamestop pre-order, I know well enough to simply follow along and offer the services of my Borg bridge officer (courtesy Amazon.com pre-order, of course).

I still have reservations about several aspects of the game:

  • Ships are boring: Space combat looks boring to me, though I realize there are several complicated factors taking place at any given time; I am certain to suck at it because I suck at things I find boring and complicated. No, I never really played space games as a kid. Heck, I even sucked at Asteroid.
  • Moving like a plastic doll: Ground combat still looks a bit unpolished to me, but it’s getting noticeably better. The more beta footage I watch, the better I feel about it, so I’m open to changing my mind about this one.
  • Pretty Pretty Princess: I love the Star Trek franchise, for watching, but I’m not sure how much I will enjoy living in it. I haven’t had much success getting excited about games outside of a fantasy setting (sorry, Fallen Earth!), largely due to the lack of resources to dress my characters as prettily as I like. If there is a social clothing option for hanging out at the spaceports/Quarks equivalent, and/or the ability to dress my Captain in a TOS skirt uniform, this will go a long way to alleviate my worries. (I’m not a fan of the miniskirt per se, but do I like skirts and it certainly is a skirt)
  • What do you mean, “content?”: Will this game suffer from the lack of content issues that plague(d) Champions Online, and how will this manifest in a game that is said to have procedurally generated planets for exploring and episodic mission content? Would that mean that there are no planets to explore at launch, or only three out of thirteen Episodes are complete? How will this impact me, a 5-10 or fewer hour per week player?

However, I do love the following: 

  • NPC Bridge Officers/Away team members: Oh, Guild Wars henchman model, please allow me to make out with you for a moment. Thank you for letting me have the option of joining my better half’s away team, or join up with him with my own team of NPC pets for planet exploration. I think I love you.
  • Art style: It seems most people are either in the love or hate camps for the Champions Online graphic style, but I was rather on the fence about it once I realized I could turn cell shading off. The style Cryptic has gone with for STO is much preferred, however, and I find myself wishing they had gone in this direction for CO as well. I especially like the look of space – I don’t care if space isn’t as busy in real life – this is worlds more fun to look at, and I’m here to have fun.
  • These quotes:  

“Some of the systems you discover will have combat and others some will have non-combat missions. Many involve acquiring and delivering certain commodities like industrial replicators or medical supplies. There are also thousands of points of interest throughout space and on planet surfaces that can be scanned.

“You can bring this data back to planet Memory Alpha. Collect the right data, and you may learn how to create something new, or you may peak the interest of a prominent Bridge Officer who may offer to join your crew.

“What you can expect is that your Bridge Officers will often work something like mission Contacts. For instance, if you fly by a spatial anomaly, your science officer may speak up and say he detected some unusual activity, and prompt you to explore it.”

            Oh, please be like that for real, and not like the “bears, bears, bears” of Warhammer Online. If you can do this, Cryptic, I’m yours.

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I am thisclose to throwing the biggest temper tantrum about Guild Wars 2‘s release date, on the heels of this new trailer hitting the internet. Why can’t it be 2011 yet? Why do I have to flounder about, sampling every MMO under the sun, when I know my one true love has yet to even enter beta, and I’ll drop every subscription game I managed to hold on to as soon as it’s released?

Oh, how I yearn for thee, Guild Wars 2, with your sexy Norn and your endearing Asura and your… well, yes, sexy Charr, your, um… enigmatic Sylvari? I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing an Asura at launch. That and a Human. And a Norn. And possibly a Charr.

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I am having one heck of a time trying to navigate my inner hype-meter regarding BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and Cryptic’s Star Trek Online. Several months ago my excitement was purely along Trek lines as Cryptic showed off the range of character looks you could create and gave tantalizing glimpses of the final frontier as they envisioned it. In contrast, all I knew about TOR was that it was going to be like the KOTOR games, neither of which had snagged my interest (but then again, see my lack of fondness for single player games).

Months later, we have a wealth of further information on each upcoming game, and the more I learn, the more I lean towards TOR and away from STO. I’ve always been more interested in the human side of Star Trek, yet all I’ve seen of the avatars out-of-ship is some combat that looks like it could use some improvement. The space battles Cryptic has shown have been very pretty and impressive, but I don’t want to be a ship, and I don’t want the most interesting things in the game to happen to me while I’m a ship, nor do I want my only options when assuming a bodily presence to be “combat” or “role-playing”. I guess this is where my bias for fantasy games rears its ugly head; I do want to boldly go where no one has gone before, but I’d like to walk around for a while once I get there. I’d probably be the crazy Ensign who “goes native” and decides to stay on an exploration planet, making it my home.

On the other hand, the main thing that kept me from playing both KOTOR and Dragon Age: Origins for longer than an hour was that I couldn’t play it with anyone else, so on the surface of it, a game from BioWare that I can play with someone else sounds like precisely something I’d want to try. The first images of the Jedi Consular have me swooning, and companions sound deliciously like Guild Wars’ heroes, just as the mentions of heavy instancing to enable better storytelling reminds me of that game. Why, it’ll be like getting to play Guild Wars 2 in space! My only concern is that I’ve not quite come around on the artistic style of the game; it’s a bit too Clone Wars-y for me sometimes, as I didn’t care for the look of the series or movie, either.

My current position is that I’d like to wait until Star Trek Online releases and see what others have to say about it before I make my final decision; however, my better half has watched the latest video on Fleet Actions and declared it necessary to buy the game on launch day. As for The Old Republic… well… my last pre-order was Warhammer and that didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked, but I think I may have to set aside a fiver to reserve this one for myself.

Here’s hoping that a Jedi Consular can party up with an Empire Bounty Hunter, since we’ve each called dibs!

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Mythos Hype

It seems I’m in the minority regarding the latest news about Mythos returning to public scrutiny, with a revamped website and a teaser trailer on display. I’ve read several comments here and there pledging support of Runic Games and Torchlight rather than this usurper of the Runic Games developers’ previous brainchild.

While it does feel a bit weird to be excited about a game that Redbana acquired nearly 80% complete, and I am part wary and part skeptical about whatever changes and additions they might have made (will they be obvious? disjointed? or seamless?), I can’t help it. Mythos as I understand it is ever so slightly closer to the kind of game I wanted to play from the beginning than Torchlight is. If Mythos comes out within the next handful of months with multiplayer support, I will be there with bells on for quick dungeon romps, and I know my gaming partner and better half will be, too.

I passed on Torchlight in its current incarnation because I don’t enjoy single-player games. Beyond that, I would have to see if there will be more options for character appearance in any future iterations before I crossed over (I don’t accept being locked into one look for each class in Asian grinders, and I don’t accept them here) and if they will be introducing an over-the-shoulder camera option. For me, that Mythos already provides these things puts it ahead in the running.

That doesn’t make it feel any less awkward, though. It feels strangely akin to dating your friend’s ex or something. Just… don’t tell Runic Games, okay?

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