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Archive for the ‘Star Trek Online’ Category

Last week, Mr. Randomessa’s excitement got the better of him and he, too, re-subscribed to Star Trek Online to join me in boldly getting ahead of the free-to-play launch.
Of course, then Cryptic opened up access to anyone who had previously held a subscription as of January 5th. D’oh! It would just be our luck.

Since then, my husband has gained a rank on his Klingon and he and I have quested together Fed-side, and even done a couple of the PvE scheduled events together Klingon-side. I have been going to bed earlier the past few nights, so my own gameplay has been spotty, but the wonderful thing is – no worries; I just match his rank when we group and all is well!

He is also very enamored of the Duty Officer system and is taking it extremely seriously. Tipa has referred to Doff management as Facebook-style “cow clicking,” and I have never played a FB game so I can’t comment on how close that comes to the mark, but at any rate, it’s helped me set a new criteria for what I’m looking for in any future MMOs I play. In fact, one of my only existing concerns about Guild Wars 2 is that all of the minigames I’ve heard about so far involve competitive gameplay of some sort (bar brawl, keg rugby, shooting gallery) and what I really want is something with a non-combat focus and in which I do not need to compete against other players, but can still advance my character. I don’t need it to be all of the time. Just some of the time.

More and more I’ve been thinking about the MMO features I prefer and how they affect my enjoyment of the games I play, such as how greatly world travel and level-gating has impacted my husband’s and my enjoyment in LOTRO. These are old issues, familiar enough to MMO players that we have our cute slogans and practices, our static groups and our spousal leveling contracts, but something about wanting to enjoy my time in Tolkein’s universe and feeling thwarted instead of welcome every time I tried to share my gameplay with someone outside of a PUG made me snap, and I have decided I just won’t put up with these kinds of things anymore, no matter how intriguing the subject matter or setting of an upcoming game. I think this is what made it so easy for me to pass on the launch of SW:TOR after one beta weekend, my other reservations notwithstanding.

If I were to have a New Year’s Resolution this year (I haven’t made any), it would be: I will not participate in another spousal leveling contract.

There was an excellent forum post put up at MMORPG.com recently, called The Tao of Arenanet, that explains Guild Wars 2′s features in light of ArenaNet’s design philosophy and thus attempts to show why GW2 is not merely a collection of features that may or may not be represented to some degree in other MMOs such that they are interchangeable. I have been arguing this in a more or less incoherent fashion, here and in forum and blog comments, for the past two years, but this post says it so much more eloquently that I now tip my hat and say, “QFT.”

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Still Trekking…

…across the universe, etc. etc.

I actually did the unthinkable this holiday season: I re-subscribed to STO to bridge the month before it goes free to play. Me! Re-subscribed! I’m not sure that I’ll spend any more money on STO past this subscription, but I was so impressed by the changes to the game that I wanted to throw some cash Cryptic’s way, and this way I get to keep playing prior to January 17th. Which I have been. I have even given running missions Klingon-side a try, trying to see how much I can level between PvE missions and Duty Officer management (which are so much more amusing than the Fed-side DOff missions) and no PvP whatsoever.

Despite the furor on the forums about the Star Wars-inspired glowing lirpas and bat’leths that Ferengi!Yoda was handing out until earlier this week, I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t look more like the lightsabers they were decried as. One of those “all this kerfuffle over this?” moments, to be sure, but I find that is often the case on the official STO forums, where if you aren’t angry about something, you’re a fanboy.

Obligatory Glowing Lirpa Shot

Aside from making Mr. Randomessa extremely jealous over being able to play the game while he waited until he couldn’t justify paying $15 for as many days of subscription, I have also dipped into the Foundry missions (a whole new level of fun) and have been catching up on STO podcasts. I have also found possibly the only Star Trek Online forum that isn’t full of bitter naysayers at the Trek BBS (my home on the internet when my husband and I were mainlining DS9 a couple of weeks ago).

Oh, and I’m trying out the diplomacy missions for the first time and am still running races in Q’s Winter Wonderland, which, again, goes to show how much I appreciate non-combat and non-competitive options for gameplay. I tried popping in to Guild Wars’ Wintersday celebrations and popped out again rather quickly for that very reason. Tis the season not to fight anything, for me.

I have to say that unlike most MMOs where I do like being in the thick of pre-orders and the surge of new players embarking on their first journeys together, STO was one of those games where you didn’t get a whole lot out of being an early adopter (unless you were a lifetime sub from the start) and coming in later means I have so many parallel paths of advancement that I don’t expect to run out of things to do for some time. Of course, this also means that all of my content stories will be old news to those who ranked up to Admiral last year. Oh well; time to delve deep into the Foundry, I suppose.

And then I jumped off.

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For the past 10 days I’ve been taking part in the Star Trek Online free key and item bundle offered here by Alienware. I already have my veteran account, of course, but I wanted to give the game a free once-over before it actually goes free-to-play, and this past week, with all the excitement of everyone else in the free world playing SW:TOR, seemed as good a time as any.

Mr. Randomessa and I stopped playing STO only a few months into our year-long subscriptions, citing several conflicts of interest, from my aversion to what I felt was excessive space gameplay, to his PvP burnout Klingon-side, to our disappointment with the crafting system, among other quality-of-life issues. We left just as the Episodic content was starting to get underway, but by that time our enthusiasm was spent and we didn’t delve too deeply into the weekly episodes. We didn’t write off the game completely, however, opting instead to wait and see how the next year would change or improve things.

Having ranked up to Lt. Commander on a new character, I think the wait has been well worth it. The most praise I have to offer is for the Duty Officer system, which adds a compelling means of non-combat advancement – something I’ve been wanting in MMOs for as long as I’ve been playing them (are you listening, ArenaNet?). Since usually this comes in the form of crafting in other MMOs, and crafting is generally on a separate XP bar than adventuring, the Doff system, for the first time in any MMO I’ve played so far, allows me to rank up even if I’m not actively completing missions or engaging in patrols. I cannot express how tickled this makes me; over the past week I leveled twice just from having completed Doff assignments. This also partially resolves the problems caused by having a singular leveling path for all Fed and KDF characters (which I have previously criticized), in combination with the ability to “skip” missions (which I should also mention is an awesome feature!). Combined with Squad Support putting an end to our need for our spousal leveling contract means that Mr. Randomessa’s and my leveling options were just blown wide open.

Second is the extra love being added here and there, from the occasional voiceover (Bioware has nothing to fear on that front, to be certain), to inserted cutscenes, to chairs you can sit on without using an emote (a feature I haven’t seen in any MMO I’ve played other than WoW). I’ve participated in Q’s Winter Wonderland, had a snowball thrown at me, fawned over other characters’ fashion choices (I’ve never been the type to ask “where did you get that outfit?” let alone spent much time trying to emulate them, but the new additions to wardrobe have unveiled this tendency in me and allowed me to indulge my love of the fantasy genre even within this universe), and remembered how cool it is that I can make a Cardassian given the character creation tools Cryptic has provided me. I even got a “boo, hiss” tell from another player for running a Cardie, which was surprisingly satisfying.

For the Republic! Er, wait, what game is this again?

I must also give bonus points to Cryptic for adding the ability to purchase Cryptic Points in-game through the exchange of refined dilithium. I feel this is Perfect World’s hand at work, since PWI’s other games also tend to feature the ability to exchange (exorbitant amounts of) in-game gold for cash-shop items. That the option is there is always a plus in my mind, just as I appreciate the means of acquiring Turbine Points through gameplay in LOTRO.

In short, STO has added or improved on a lot of features that Mr. Randomessa and I dreamed of from the start, and we’re more than ready to jump back in on the F2P launch date. We also can’t wait to check out the entries on the Foundry, which from the reviews I’ve read make even greater use of the engine than Cryptic does at times. There are only a couple more items remaining on our wishlists, including being able to see our Doffs on our ship when we explore the interior, and the ability to have quests and/or combat take place in ship interiors.

It remains to be seen how long I will be excited about STO before my love of fantasy settings begin to chafe again – costuming aside – but I still have my active LOTRO gaming sessions to scratch that particular itch. My free 10 days in STO ended yesterday, and I was loathe to log out that last time, hoping instead to see how just one more of my Doff assignments would end… and then another… and then another….

You know how it is, new shiny MMO experience and all.

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One thing that I haven’t seen get a lot of mention regarding Guild Wars 2′s newly-revealed Engineer profession (and which I myself forgot to mention while typing up my last post; such is the casualty of a reduction in free time these days) is the other Engineer profession I had a lot of fun with: my Lieutenant Commander in Star Trek Online, in the iconic Starfleet gold.

My fictional, fantasy self was born to engineer, baby!




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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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I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been exclusively playing Guild Wars as my MMO title for the past while. In light of that fact, I felt a slight makeover of my blog was in order, and with that, a new header image. I was surprised to find that although I have many Fraps folders full of lovely GW scenery, not many can be fully appreciated with a mere banner-strip of the view. Raisu Palace (or was it Raisu Pavillion? I don’t remember) turned out to be photogenic from just about every angle, though, so enjoy. It was either this or my character wearing a pumpkin hat.

While my excuse for neglecting my year-long subscription to Star Trek Online is the new War in Kryta content and my desire to acquire shiny things, my better half has been lured by one, then another, then another, single-player game. Having murdered the bad guys dead in Mass Effect 2, he is now taking a shot with ME1, being a villain and a scoundrel in Overlord, and has his eye turned to Mount & Blade next, as well as the Dragon Age DLC.

What happened to Star Trek Online? I’m not sure. After an exciting head start, we both lost momentum with the release of ME2 – the better half because he was playing it, and me because I put my character on hold while he played it (those pesky spousal leveling contracts will get you every time!). The first flaw I found with STO at the time was that due to the way content was funneled along a single path, I could not hope to run an alt during my downtime without exhausting content I’d just have to run with my partner all over again. So, strike one for Cryptic: no alternative content paths for leveling.

By the time we got back into playing with any regularity, I found my interest in space combat beginning to wane. I discovered that I don’t connect well to ships as avatars, and as a result I did not look forward to launching yet another mission and spending yet another 45 minutes in space shooting things up – even when it looks spectacular. I longed to do my exploring on foot rather than beam down for the conclusion or penultimate part of an episode, and since the only other way to spend most of my time on the ground was to do ground PvP exclusively, the appeal of the whole game went a bit south for me.

Meanwhile, my better half was tearing up PvP Klingon-side with his alt while I played Guild Wars, Wizard 101, Aika, Everquest 2, and made a few abortive attempts at LOTRO and DDO. For his part, PvP came down to one too many 9 vs. 1 battles, and one night he logged off and vowed not to return until Cryptic had found a way to balance the maps more effectively.

We continue to watch the updates and patches come in for STO with interest, and I did make a point of logging in and getting my proper Original Series shirt with the scoop collar, and proper wraparound skirt, thankyouverymuch (am I bothered that the uniform will now be available in the C-Store? Not at all; I decided that the content was worth $10 to me for the privilege of having at launch. Everyone else who wants it now can have at it!). It’s nice to know that since we have paid for the year, we can pop in whenever we like to sample the water. Cost of the yearly subscription aside, I can’t stress the value that freedom holds for me. If we’d had a monthly subscription, we likely would have canceled by 30 days and not returned at all, so anyone who’s still playing – you’re welcome; our money is helping you get content!

Alas, now our respective focii are elsewhere, so I retire my Lieutenant ship for the time being, and bring you Canthan palaces. Next, I bring you the tale of how I came to embrace the PvE meta of Guild Wars, kicking and screaming all the way.

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Nearly two months ago, I was dipping my toes back into Everquest II in anticipation of the New Halas update, while simultaneously revisiting Guild Wars due to the 5th Anniversary celebrations and War in Kryta teaser updates. I was certain at the time that come May 25th, I would be re-subscribing to EQII with my better half to fill our time when our Star Trek Online playing has lapsed (which is has). I did not expect to spend much time in Guild Wars, as I was feeling largely burned out on repeating content in pursuit of various achievements.

Suddenly, today is the day, and Guild Wars has delivered a stunning upset. The War In Kryta storyline has begun unfolding in earnest, which has not only provided me with a reason to log in more often to keep up with the events (excellent observation by Ravious of KTR that this content is becoming more event-like), but which has brought in new and old players alike and enabled me to group more often for that same old content I was growing weary of doing by myself. Massively has started a new guild for the purpose of tackling the Prophecies campaign, and I have had the pleasure of grouping up with them for a couple of weeks. I even found two – two! – groups attempting the Dunes of Despair mission and bonus the other night (we failed, alas).

Since ArenaNet now seems determined to keep a Live Team dedicated to providing updates to Guild Wars for as long as its lifespan, and the Guild Wars Beyond campaign is slated to keep us advancing right up to the point that Guild Wars 2 is launched, I now foresee a year where Guild Wars can return to being my main MMO attraction, and I have no further need for diversions. The Peacekeeper bounties provide a satisfying daily goal that fits within my schedule – I don’t even get to these every day, but they’re there if I want to. Courier Falken is a quick and easy run for tokens. I can’t believe I’m advocating for a repeatable quest, but for some reason the good Courier is fun to chase around (it must be his special attack). And in between all of this, I’m getting mission bonuses completed and even taking up vanquishing again with some good advice from friends.

Guild Wars Beyond has truly breathed fresh life into the game from my perspective. It’s amazing how adding one new feature like this has made the entire experience seem new and exciting again, as though I was not there back when Thunderhead Keep existed as a brick wall to beat your head against.

As for my better half: he will join me when his Necromancer can finally jump.

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Avatar Blues

Having spent some time at the Lt. Commander tier in Star Trek Online, whilst also dabbling in an assortment of other games I’ve posted about, I have been trying to determine how I really feel about STO, two months in.

I have certainly been playing infrequently, and in small doses; when my better half and I log in to play together, we don’t pull off more than a patrol mission and a story episode before calling it quits for the night. Sometimes we mix it up with a patrol mission mixed with PvP! And while I can honestly say it’s fun to fly around blasting ships and gaping at the scenic asteroid belts and planets we orbit (I’m not even tired of patrol missions yet; they feel much less grindy than “kill twenty boars” to me), at the end of the day the most exciting part of any game session is, for me, the moment when my first officer suggests that we beam down and check something out.

I have posted before about my fears that I would feel disconnected from the game if I spent most of my time being represented as a ship, and whether or not I’ve sabotaged myself by calling it, my fears seems to have come to pass. It’s not that I dread space combat, or the act of beaming up, exactly. I’m pretty good at the space side of things, but I do wish there were rather less of it. Even my mindset towards my Bridge Officers changes between when I’m on the ground and when I’m in space: I equip myself with Tachyon Beam and Beam Overload, but I train my First Officer in Draw Fire. In space, my BOffs are just buttons that I press to make myself more effective, but on the ground they are bodies I fight alongside, instruct to give cover, and resuscitate when they fall. I can’t stop thinking of my ship as a vehicle. It is not “me (in-game),” and I want, more than anything in this game, to be able to be “me.”

I hear that at higher tiers there are ground Fleet Actions, and of course the raidisodes (which I am unsure I will ever see) have ground content as well. I hold out hope that the ground game will be improved and expanded on as time passes; additional exploration content and, of course, more ship interiors will contribute to what is currently lacking.

In the meantime, I’ll just be hanging out in the exploration clusters, warping in and out of missions in the hopes of finding things I can apply a tricorder to.

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However, I have been temporarily widowed by Mass Effect 2: my partner has been enjoying this far more than he did Dragon Age: Origins, and it shows, as he just finished up the storyline last night after days of dedicated play, and is about to start his second playthrough with a new character (“this time, I’m going to be evil!”).

Until now, I had not felt the sting of Cryptic’s lack of alternate advancement for Star Trek Online, since thanks to bridge officer customization I have no desire in this game to create alts for the sake of creating alts. Now that we are not gaming together, I still feel the urge to play STO, but don’t want to progress my character, who is expressly dedicated to duoing with my better half. While any leveling disparities might be alleviated if only Cryptic would import their own sidekicking mechanic from Champions Online back into STO, I have realized there is a bigger issue here, and that is: we both love a good story too much to pass it by.

My better half and I savor every episode mission and set aside time to take part in them together, whereas we may each split off and do PvP or patrol missions while the other is occupied, skilling up, etc. Our favorite parts of Age of Conan were the Tortage storyline, with the caveat that we hated having to do our nighttime missions completely alone (on the other hand, we enjoyed comparing notes when our stories differed based on our archetypes – “oh, so you were the warrior who freed the captives!” etc.)

I keep forgetting that since I do not play single-player games and my partner does, I will always need a spare MMO that I can solo to fall back on while he is getting his story on. The problem lies in the fact that we do not wish to maintain multiple subscriptions to games, and I can’t think of an F2P game that has an overarching solo storyline to sink my teeth into (I am re-considering Mabinogi, but I have tried that game more than once in the past and it just hasn’t clicked with me). In short, I deeply regret that STO does not yet have a viable alternate storyline path for me to play during those times when duoing or grouping is not possible for whatever reason.

But hark! There is news on the (possibly far, far off) horizon: Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising has been resurrected! Oh frabjous day! Callou! Callay! While this will not take care of my secondary MMO needs in the here and now, I look forward to every new option on the horizon with rubbing-hands-together levels of glee.

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With the Original Series Uniform skirts now available for both captains and their bridge officers, my character’s ensemble is now finally complete!

Yardwork calls to me this weekend, so I will not likely be able to rank up from Lt. 9 to Lt. Commander for another week, but progress is being made….

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