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Archive for the ‘DC Universe Online’ Category

I have started and stopped this post in progress several times already, and it has evolved from a “2010 in Review” post to the slimmed down version I offer today, a day late. Seems my first resolution for 2011 is to keep things simple.

Other resolutions I have on offer:

  • No more long-term subscriptions. I have now made two poor gambles in long-term subs in the hopes that I could get around my distaste for monthly payments, but it is now obvious to me that long-term consistent gameplay is not really where I’m at. Even in the event that a game captures my interest, I would do better to bite the bullet and subscribe only as needed than to go all-in for a year (or the game’s lifetime).
  • Accept that Fantasy is “the” genre for me. DC Universe Online was fun, and Star Trek Online has its moments, but the moment I glimpsed my Bahmi Chloromancer in robes, fighting chained spirits, or my Dwarf cleric in her chainmail, I felt at home. This will save me a lot of trouble when it comes to Star Wars: The Old Republic.
  • No more arguing on the internet about alleged vs. known facts about upcoming games. However, I do expect to have to make a post in around a year’s time about ArenaNet’s actual claims about Dynamic Events, akin to my post about Mythic’s Public Quests. I’m collecting my sources and I’m checking them twice.

I’m also encouraged about other gaming options that are coming to fruition in 2011. There will be not one, but two D&D-inspired multiplayer games, as well as a multiplayer Lord of the Rings RPG, and I could not be more excited to see if these scratch any of the itches I have previously been unable to get anywhere but in MMOs. I am also extremely excited to play, of all things, a single player game in The Sims Medieval. For some reason, The Sims don’t ping as a single-player game in my mind, with all the resultant problems of feeling lonely and caged in not raising their ugly heads.

That most of these are expected out in spring of 2011 means I will have to ration my time between them and Rift (there arises that dastardly subscription opposition again), but I hope they will help me get over the tricky hype road to SW:TOR and beyond. And, of course, if Guild Wars 2 should see a 2011 release, any and all bets for gaming outside of GW2 are off.

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Between KTR’s post about MMOs charging subscriptions for content, and Syp’s post about MMOs claiming to re-invent the wheel and what may or may not be foolhardy about that, I’ve had a lot of food for thought over the past couple of days, and done more commenting than I usually do. So, I says to myself, self, I should probably slink away to my blog and continue here.

The beta testing and gaming I’ve been doing recently has helped me learn more about my tastes WRT MMOs (and I’m still learning): my reticence to maintain subscriptions has always had to do with feeling compelled to play, which, to others, might merely be a sign that I don’t enjoy a game as much as I should – and in some cases, as with LOTRO, it’s certainly true.

But I keep coming back to the sub-1000 hours I’ve spent playing my most favoritest game in the whole wide world, Guild Wars, over the past five years. I have literally played this game as much as I can stand, and enjoyed 99.8% of it – the only times I don’t enjoy it are when I end up having to repeat missions to get to the next nugget of story, or when I actually do dip into the grind/farm in order to acquire that elite armor, or that minipet, or that faction tier. That’s when I find myself playing for hours a night for, say, a week, and then leaving for a month because I need some time to myself.

There is so much I haven’t done in Guild Wars. I’ve never seen the inside of an elite dungeon. I haven’t finished the Titan quest chain. I most certainly haven’t Vanquished more than a few small squares of any given continent. I will never play any aspect of the game enough to get T1 Friend of the Luxons/Kurzicks.

But I love this game. I adore it, I think about it, I blog about it, I read the lore and I pitch it to every person I come across who might seem the slightest bit inclined to computer gaming. But ultimately I haven’t logged on since I completed Hearts of the North, and I’m really okay with that. I didn’t have to cancel my subscription, and I don’t feel that GW has somehow let me down because I didn’t have anything to do but “grind” after I was finished. I’ll be back when the next part of the story continues, and so on.

The subscription mentality, naturally, resists the prospect of a game being “finished”, because a) for most people the game isn’t the story, and b) because why pay a subscription for content that ends?

Well, why, indeed?

I’d been feeling mildly guilty about signing up for and playing betas and other things that fill the void for me between content bursts in GW and news about GW2 – and its eventual release – but I think I’ve been going about it the wrong way, approaching it from a viewpoint not my own. If I don’t mind that GW’s content has an endpoint, there’s no need for me to feel guilty about not logging in each day to chase carrots in which I have no interest, and in addition, there’s no subscription compelling me to do it.

Similarly, if I’m okay with leaving GW intermittently, there’s no need for me to feel I must remain “loyal” to GW and only play other games as a stopgap between GW updates. So what if I want to buy Rift when it comes out? So what if I want to buy DC Universe Online?

What if the people who only subscribe to WoW long enough to reach max level, then return to level through an expansion, and unsubscribe again, have it right? Is it so wrong, is it such a failure of the game, indeed, of the genre, to do that?

I am not in any way suggesting that the genre move entirely toward this sort of model just because it suits me. I will admit to having no solution for those unsatisfied with the model, because I do not crave what they crave. What would an MMO that didn’t heavily feature the endless pursuit of higher numbers and more bars to fill up look like, if it does not already exist in games like EVE or Darkfall or A Tale in the Desert, or if it did not explictly claim that it has a story that ends, such as A Secret World or Guild Wars 2?

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According to Chris Cao, as of today the NDA for DC Universe Online has officially been lifted, so now I can finally rest easy. I was invited to the closed beta shortly before the wave of pre-order invites went out post November 15th, and, since my husband and I both pre-ordered, we then got two keys from that as well. I’ve been busily tearing up Gotham City and Metropolis ever since.

And what a time it has been! While it is evident in many ways why SOE decided to postpone the launch of DCUO, I have had a relatively smooth beta experience, and a lot of content to burn through (much of which I have not experienced due to lack of gaming hours and a reticence to “spoil” content for myself). Vindictus has softened me somewhat to the so-called “action” style of gameplay, and while I will never be someone who can compete on a high level – I have not yet PvP’ed, and frankly I’m afraid to – I am a bit above button-mashing level. Why, I can even pull off a combo or two from time to time, with no repetitive stress injuries resulting.

Story-wise, in my opinion DCUO delivers, as we chase story nugget after story nugget, with copious voice work (still in progress) and epic boss fights and cut scenes. This is, as I’ve said before, exactly why I play these games, and even if the combat weren’t as satisfying, the story would keep me playing longer than most. Because the combat is satisfying and fun, it’s all the sweeter.

Relative downsides include a lack of character customization to start off with, which is certainly a deal-breaker for some. I’m not sure this is a title for the heavy RPers, as its UI is FPS-style with no ability to click on other players or “inspect” them, and I’m not even sure there are emotes, let alone extensive ones. Chatting with in-game text becomes cumbersome. This is an action title for sure, which makes it all the more puzzling to separate the PC and PS3 players.

Since we’ve been in beta, Mr. Randomessa and I have rarely played Vindictus, as DCUO has been providing us with much of that good old smack-things-around fun, with much more scenic and character variety (my complaint, not his). Character graphics are not as smooth or impressive as Vindictus, to be sure, but I value the opportunity to make a character that is unique and distinct, something I’ve not had a problem with in DCUO thus far. Ideally I could have Vindictus’s graphics and DCUO’s versatility.

I do find myself longing for more non-combat content, which I’m not sure DCUO will reasonably provide given, again, the FPS interface. With no crafting planned, we are left with exploration and collection quests, which are nice, but not quite what I’m looking for when I say “non-combat content.” But after playing these two highly-active games, I am not quite sure how I will happily return to other titles with numbered skill bars. I won’t go so far as to say Guild Wars 2 is my only hope, but I am really chomping at the bit to see how they combine the “active” dodging and target-free aiming with action bars and weapon-swapping. It may be precisely the combination I crave, but I won’t know until I can get my hands on the controls.

If SOE can make good on its promise to continuously provide monthly and quarterly updates to “earn” our subscription dollars, this could very well be a title we keep on hand and go back and forth between. I can’t see us maintaining a steady subscription, especially since ultimately we both crave a fantasy title, but for this game, I don’t think I’d mind paying my $15 to pop in and see what’s new from time to time.

But enough from me at this late hour. I’m happy to now link to beta gameplay, previously leaked, now kosher (beware story spoilers):

2-man team with Martian Manhunter vs. Aquaman

Solo VS. Isis

Villain vs. Power Girl

8-man raid

Really, just check out the user’s links if you’re interested in more. He has a ton, including a Smallville 5-man and a 2-man team saving Batman’s hide.

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Now that SOE seems to actually be stepping up the exposure of DC Universe Online since they are on the final stretch to opening their beta to all customers who pre-order on either the PC or PS3, I’m finding even more footage and coverage and my excitement level continues to grow. DCUO has a great podcast devoted to the title, in DCUO-Unlimited (their site is unfortunately a bit FUBAR while they do some database mojo, but backups of all but their latest issue can be found at Blubrry here). There you can find snippets of interviews with the dev team and bits of information I’m not sure even gaming sites have reported on (like the bit about secret identities being a key part of the game, not that you heard it from them, of course).

As excited as I am to have a new game to sink my gaming talons into, not to mention one that Mr. Randomessa wants to play with me – a rare combination of events – I look back upon my gaming history and wonder how DCUO might avoid becoming one of those games I used to play. Conversely, I might find signs pointing to DCUO being precisely one of those games. We’ll see!

  • We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and we like it that way: It just might be the case that I can’t quite immerse myself in a game that isn’t high fantasy, or at least swords and sorcery. I couldn’t get into Fallen Earth for long, I’ve already expressed my difficulty in watching my ship do things in Star Trek Online, and even Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t helping me shake the feeling that I just won’t enjoy being a Jedi all that much, Wizard-like as they are. I did enjoy my time in both City of Heroes and Champions online, despite other issues, but my time with them was so brief that I can’t say I would have stayed on even if all else was perfect. Maybe the presence of sorcery in DCUO, and characters like Circe, will make all the difference… maybe not.
  • Something to play while the Spouse is away: Big problems with Champions Online and Star Trek Online were that there was really only one path of advancement (10 levels in the Desert/Canada and Klingon PvP notwithstanding), and this meant that if I adhered to the Spousal Leveling Contract, I didn’t have anything to do if Mr. Randomessa latched onto a single-player game for a week or two, or wanted to PvP when I wasn’t in the mood, etc. With DCUO there are both hero and villain paths of advancement, and each side has three mentors to choose from who provide completely different storylines. This worked for us with Warhammer Online where I had an array of alts and was still able to play with my partner when we had the time for it.
  • PvP is more than stun-locking or cage-fighting: PvP is one of the activities Mr. Randomessa and I enjoy, but we prefer either the balanced arena type, such as scenarios if you’re Warhammer-minded, or objective-based, such as keep raids. DCUO appears to promise both, with the added bonus of iconic PvP taking gear out of the equation and making the whole affair entirely skill-based, something like Guild Wars’ Costume Brawl. I plan to stink up the place with my lack of aptitude, but appreciate the option nonetheless. As long as we don’t spend the entire match stun-locked, as occurred in certain Ettenmoors that shall not be named, this should provide us with several evenings’ worth of entertainment.
  • Crafting isn’t done AFK: I appear to be part of a strange non-audience who simultaneously looks forward to games that are casual-friendly with ease of travel, low death penalties, and heavy story-based formats, while still enjoying activities typically considered mundane such as crafting. The recent revelation that crafting in SW:TOR will be done entirely by one’s companions left a sour taste in my mouth, not because I enjoy being a merchant or career crafter, but because crafting is a non-combat, non-questing activity that doesn’t require me to log out of the game when I tire of one or the other. In games like Everquest II where crafting is a minigame, I rather liked making rush orders as an opportunity to stay in one place and yet have a chance to actively participate in something.

    DC Universe Online, too, has indicated that crafting will not be a part of the game, yet I feel SOE speaks to my condition a bit more closely when MMORPG.com notes that there will be a system that provides players with the chance to participate in something that is not combat or questing. I hope I am not just hanging my dreams on a cloud, here. If there isn’t something satisfying and peaceful for me to do at the end of a killing spree, I’m going to be a sad superhero.

With these points on file, it becomes more apparent why other games have failed to stick with me (or, in the case of unreleased games, why certain ones have failed to interest me more). I will have to watch my beta time carefully to see how “sticky” DC Universe Online proves to be in the long run.

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Although I have only been following the progress of DC Universe Online peripherally (and even less so after it was revealed the game is going to adhere to the subscription model), over the past week this title has been pinging increasingly on my radar.

Through the initial release date pushback and the commencement of closed beta, I have seen a tiny flurry of features, videos, and, yes, beta leaks coming across the internet, and I am surprised to say that I like what I see, a lot.

I am also surprised to say that I feel DCUO has more in common with Guild Wars 2 than I would have guessed, from the multiple origin storylines to iconic allies who join you in storyline dungeons, to armor/weapon drops that you can either equip for the looks or the stats, to the ability to revive any ally from unconsciousness without a hotbar skill, to the comicbook cutscenes a la concept art that curtain each story act, to the tagline “The Next Legend Is You.”

Of course, several of these items overlap with both of Cryptic’s previous offerings, as well as the grandaddy of superhero MMOs, City of Heroes/Villains. But when I hear Chris Cao talk about the game, it feels less like a litany of game features and a little bit more like, well, a manifesto. When he declares that the level cap was set at 30 because that was the natural conclusion of the storyline, rather than choosing a level cap and trying to come up with content to satisfy the leveling curve, I feel he’s making a statement about content vs. filler that I can agree with wholeheartedly.

I had been expecting to pass DCUO on by, but the knowledge that pre-ordering before the 15th of this month will guarantee closed beta access has brought Mr. Randomessa and I on board. The fact that the videos we’ve seen are enthralling, action-packed and well-voiced is what tipped our wallets in that direction, as well as the knowledge that we both enjoyed ourselves in City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online (though the PvP in the former was non-existent at low levels and the art style of the latter grated on our senses).

While I am still leery of subscriptions, there must be something earnest about the faces of SOE’s people that makes me re-consider when I read things like this:

“You’re giving us $15 a month, so we have to give you something in return. Every month we’re going to give you a new episode, a little something more to do,” he said. “It’s not going to be an expansion, it’s not going to be a huge amount, but it’s enough that you’re going to continue to see the expanded and explored DC Universe. Every trimester or so, we’re going to give you a much bigger download, something with new maps, a whole bunch of new stuff to do, new armor to chase and that sort of thing. Really, it’s based on what we can build and how fast we can build it for all of you. We want to make sure anything we add actually adds something to the experience and isn’t simply ‘more.'”

While subscription proponents have long argued that subscriptions net more content over time, and while I question that conventional wisdom, I can accept the idea of monthly content packages – more frequent versions of CoX’s “issues”, if you will – per subscription installment. I’m never going to be pleased with the fact that I am merely renting access to that content, but fortunately that’s not a decision I have to make just yet.

The only decision I have to make is how I can best replicate a Sylvari Elementalist using DCUO’s character creator.

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