Published on February 16th, 2010 @ 06:54:33 am , using 1043 words, 986 views
One thing you always see on MMO (and probably other game types) forums, blogs, etc, is "I want something new and different!" or "This is the same old, same old, nothing new here!", and the more negative, but expressing the same desire/sentiment "This is just a copy of <insert past/popular game here>!"
Why do so many games seem to follow a formula, a cookie-cutter if you will? There's a couple of potential reasons. I'll mainly be talking MMOs here, as that's the main thing I play and study.
The first, and likely primary reason for following design formulas is simple business. "'Game W' has millions of subscribers, so if we follow a lot of what 'Game W' did, we'll have a lot of subscribers, too." In general, that works. No one's matched 'Game W''s numbers yet (and it may be that no one ever does, until Developer B's next game), but most of the other fairly successful MMOs follow a similar design formula. MMOs cost millions (tens of millions, actually) of dollars to create, so, from a business standpoint, you either follow a proven formula, or you gamble with a boatload of money. It's hard to convince the bean counters to go for the gamble.
There is also the past history that a lot of games that went and did something different either failed, changed directions to be more formulaic, or actually shut down. You've got SWG, which when it opened, was a very sandboxy, open, unique game. It had a level-less advancement system with no classes, where you could really create the kind of character you wanted. It also had a very deep crafting system that I can't even begin to explain here. And... it ended up being changed into a standard level-based system with rigid classes. Then there's Vanguard, which sought to return to a more hardcore playstyle, with harsh death penalty and forced grouping. It was plagued by a truly disastrous release (and absurdly high computer system requirements), but I think ultimately the harder gameplay, in a post-WoW world helped kill it. Sure, it's still running, but do you know anyone that plays it as their primary MMO? I sure don't. The list of "different but failed/obscure" MMOs goes on: AC2, Shadowbane, WISH, Horizons; I could go on and on. Yes, all of these had OTHER problems, but, I maintain that if the gameplay were more familiar for more people, the games probably would have survived.
So you get bean counters looking at this history and saying "no way, all these games did things different and failed, we're not gambling with $50,000,000. You will follow a proven formula."
Then there's always the dual-nature of gamers working against doing things differently. Let's take an example from WoW. Dungeons in WoW generally follow a standard pattern. You go in, you clear "trash" mobs to get to a boss, then you fight the boss. The boss might be a simple "tank and spank" encounter, or sometimes there's more of an "event" to it. Then you clear to the next boss, and repeat until the last one. It's fun, but, basically, formulaic. People screamed for something different, so Blizzard came up with The Oculus, easily the most hated dungeon in the game. It's different though! For the record, I like Oculus. ;) Anyway, in this dungeon, you clear a small amount of trash, then port up to a boss and kill him, which frees 3 NPCs. Each of these NPCs represents a different color of drake, which you choose to ride on for parts of the rest of the dungeon. While riding on the drake, your character has a completely different set of abilities from your normal ones. You basically are not your character while you are on the drake. One of them is a damage dealer, one is a healer, and one is a tank. Yeah, it's the trinity. Anyway, for the rest of the dungeon, you use the drake to fly to different encounters. 2 of them, you get off the drake and play your regular character for, and then you get to the last boss. This last boss is a dragon, and you have to defeat him while on your drake. Defeating him requires a little bit of coordination of the drake's abilities, and I find the encounter pretty cool. But most players hate this dungeon! "I don't want to play a drake, I want to play myself." is the main complaint you hear. Well, Blizzard tried to give people something different - and they didn't like it! At least they tried, eh?
And this, I think, ends up being the biggest non-business related reason you don't see anything new: What is there!?
MMOs are at their core a lot like single player RPGs. You make a character, you advance that character, usually through gaining Experience Points by completing quests and killing monsters, so that you can become powerful enough to defeat the main enemy of the story. In single player RPGs, then you're done. In MMOs, a new main enemy always rises, and you repeat the level up/advance phase. That's just how this game genre works.
So, how do you come up with a way to have this mechanic of advancing a character, in order to take on new challenges, in a new and different way? I've been thinking about that problem for over 10 years now, and I've got nothing! It seems other players also have nothing, and ditto the developers. I see the cries for "new and different!" but I never see any actual suggestions as to what to actually do, down at a mechanics/content level. I honestly think it's like the movies: every story has been told already, and all we can do is tell it a little differently, with different people, in different settings. :)
Thing is... I still love these games. I still play them, I invest thousands of dollars per year to keep my hardware current, and hundreds per year on the games and subscriptions for same, and I don't see that ever stopping. :)
Have you got the solution to the "give me new and different!!!one" cries? Have you come up with something really revolutionary? I'd love to hear about it. Comment here, email me, or send a Tweet to @ModemMisuser.
Published on February 15th, 2010 @ 07:30:07 am , using 195 words, 2182 views
I'd like to start posting more regularly, as I miss the simple joy of just writing, and then having "the world" read it. Plus it's a good cognitive exercise, and it's also just fun. Rather than just randomly blathering, though, I'd like to come up with a "posting schedule" like many other active blogs have.
I basically blog about a few different things: (mostly MMO) gaming and computers/hardware, Atheism/skepticism/etc, health/fitness/biking (when it's > 40°F out!), other hobbies, and sometimes food (which is also tied into health).
So I'm thinking maybe I'll start out trying to have a schedule like... Monday: Atheism/etc; Wednesday: Gaming, Computers and The Like™; Friday: Food/Health/etc. And any others days, maybe a random fill-in post will show up. If that works out, I can try to expand it to every weekday, with more specific topics.
Readers: does this sound good? Would you like to see something else? Post comments! Make an account - it's free, easy, and believe me - I'm not gonna do a damn thing with your email address. If you'd prefer not to make an account, you can simply email me your suggestions @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, DM or @message me via Twitter @ModemMisuser.
Those of you reading my site for gaming/computer stuff may want to turn away now. I haven't done this often, but here I go again... Another post about Atheism and such.
Most Atheist writings talk about how Atheism can give one comfort during a crisis, and how the old adage "there are no Atheists in foxholes" just isn't true. And usually, they're right - knowing nothing is "out to get you" or "punishing you," and understanding science and reason really does help you through many crises. But what happens when it doesn't?
Well, recently I've been going through a health crisis in my family. It's (most likely) not life-threatening, but it is fairly serious. The condition does not seem to be responding in the expected way to the scientifically accepted "gold standard" of medical treatment. It'll improve in one area, but stay the same or get a little worse in others. It's pretty frustrating, especially for the person with the condition, but also for me, since of course I want to see the person get better and back to 100% normal life!
Now, if you've read every post here, or know me, you know that for a lot of my earlier life, I did subscribe to many and varied Woo Belief Systems™©. From being raised Christian, then in my adolescence and early adulthood, moving on to various Occult belief systems, I've been around the Woo Block! But, I'm now a devout (and Out!) Atheist. Or so I thought.
Well, one night, a particularly bad one, during a discussion about what to do to move closer to resolving this medical crisis, I ... well ... broke down. I don't know why, it just happened. All of the old thought patterns came back. I started wondering what the heck we'd done to deserve this kind of punishment, what being was messing with us, how we could fix it, and ... yeah. It was, for lack of a better term, an Atheist crisis of faith! How can you have a crisis of faith when you don't believe in anything?
Atheists DO believe in things though. Things that can be proven, things we can see, touch, or fully understand. I think that's the problem in this case. This is a fairly common medical condition that has been studied for many, many decades. It has a very well-defined accepted treatment regimen, and it's supposed to respond and resolve fairly easily. But it isn't. So, I think, I started to wonder if science really was the answer. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Woo isn't Woo. Maybe there are "things out there" fucking with us humans. I think I was starting to see Woo as science, in a way, since I was seeing "evidence" that "science was wrong." It was wrong-thinking, but that's the state I was in at the time.
So what happened? It passed. I realized I was engaging in some bad thinking, wrong logic, and of course, under stress and therefore not thinking logically. I was pretty ashamed at having sunk into that way of thinking at all. I thought I had become a devoted, "devout" Atheist and would never again engage in Woo-think or anything approaching it. I guess, though, that more than 20 years of that sort of belief takes a while to fully leave a person's brain. I envy the Atheists that were raised Atheist, or otherwise were never engaged in a Woo belief system, or those that converted very early. I imagine they don't have to deal with this kind of crisis.
Anyway - hopefully this post will help show that it's not always easy to guard against "wrong" thinking, and sometimes even Atheists question their "faith."
And what about this medical crisis? Well, researching the condition outside of accepted medical circles begins to uncover a lot of "alternative" treatments and the like, some of which are based on what used to be accepted medical science. It is also, though, known that sometimes this condition can simply take a while to respond to the treatment. But anecdotal evidence also shows that some people simply do not respond to the gold standard treatment and require a different medication. Who do you believe? How long do you give the gold standard time to work, when quality of life is fairly negatively affected by the condition? We're simply... not sure, right now. We've got some options for second, third, etc, opinions, and we'll avail ourselves of those options. Full genetic testing has been done on the person with the condition, and we know that said person has some genetic issues with various medications, as well as in the area of pain response and the like, so it does follow that they may respond differently to treatments based on this. Who knows. We'll get through it!
Take care. :)
I actually received it last Thursday, but I wanted several days of testing to make sure it was in perfect working order and was going to work out for me - but - I got a new machine! A portable even.
It's a Sager NP8760, which doesn't tell you much, as Sager's machines (which are actually built on Clevo OEM machines) are 100% custom builds. I got mine with the i7 820QM CPU, 4GB of DDR3, a 160GB Intel SSD for the primary drive, and a 7200 RPM 500GB SATA drive for secondary. Standard onboard video is a GTX280M with 1GB of GDDR. The built-in display is 17.3" 1900x1080 (Full 1080P HD), but of course, I still have my Samsung 275T+ 27.5" art/DP grade monitor... so I use that mostly.
The machine is... incredible. I get better framerates than I did on my desktop - even though the desktop has a pair of GTX295 cards in quad-SLI mode. Quad SLI is... bad tech, honestly. I play STO, WoW, AoC on it, at max settings, and again, it's better performing than my desktop.
I'll have pics up later today or tomorrow. It's very cool - pure black, with no logos of any kind on it.
Published on February 8th, 2010 @ 08:47:49 am , using 1768 words, 1343 views
Last week I promised I'd have my full Star Trek Online review/comments/etc up. Well, here they are. The game is fairly complex, and there's a lot to cover, so I'm hoping I can make this review make sense. ;)
Let me start off by saying the typical MMO "holy trinity" mentality of pigeonholing everything into tank/dps/healing is really hindering people's thinking with this game. While those functions are still present in the game, you are not limited to these roles by your choice of "class." Everyone is, and is meant to be, a hybrid. Everyone at some point will need to tank something, heal something, and damage something. Your "class" choice is more how you approach all of those things, not which one you can approach.
I'll describe the space combat side of the game first, as it's where probably 80% of the game is spent. The ground combat is no less detailed though! You just spend less time there.
Ok, so when you create your character, you choose his or her career - which can be Science Officer, Engineering Officer, or Tactical Officer. This choice has a very general effect on how your character will approach problems, and gives you access to a few career-specific abilities at various points in the game. You're then put through a short tutorial series of missions, and end up field-promoted to captaining your own basic ship.
Ships are very detailed; almost like a separate character. They have several slots to equip items in - a number of front and rear weapon slots, an Impulse Engine slot, shield slot, etc - everything you'd figure a Star Trek ship would have. They also have console slots - classed as Engineering, Science, and Tactical. Your first ship has one of each; later ships have differing amounts, depending on what class of ship it is. You can equip consoles in these slots that modify various things relating to the type of console it is. Turn rates, shield power, things like that.
You also have Bridge Officers. These are very detailed "pets"; you can choose their name and appearance (using the full Cryptic-trademark detailed character designer). Each BO also has a career, from the same choices as your character. The BO's career controls which abilities they have access to, and you can choose from several for your BO, within their career.
On your ship, Bridge Officers man stations. Your first ship has one each of Science, Tactical, and Engineering stations. This is how you gain abilities in space: the BO that is manning a station makes available the abilities they possess. You'll just have one ability each at the start.
You can also manage the power levels of your ship's systems: engines, shields, weapons, and auxiliary. This can have a large effect on your ship's performance, and this is another fairly detailed meta-game, and a subject of much discussion/argument on the official forums.
Space combat is akin to naval combat, rather than being arcade-style. Weapons have different firing arcs, so positioning is important. You've got to know your ship's turning rate, and your firing arcs, in order to best decide how to approach your battles. You have shields in all four directions, and you also need to manage them as well, perhaps turning a weakened side away from an enemy's fire, or even diverting more power to that side. And of course, you've also got the activateable abilities each of your BOs provides. There's a lot to pay attention to during a space battle!
Ground combat is pretty detailed as well. You gain usable abilities based on the "kit" you have equipped. This might be the ability to lay down a mine field, or construct a phaser turret, or maybe throw a grenade. There are quite a few different kits you can equip (one at a time though - but higher quality ones sometimes grant 2 or more abilities). You also have slots for personal shields, armor, and weapons. Your BOs also can come with you on your Away Team, and they also have usable abilities. They can't equip kits, though; their abilities come from their career. They do have personal shields/armor/weapon slots though.
So, in ground combat, you have a small army of extremely customizable pets with you. It's very much the Ultimate Pet Game™©!
Ground combat itself is fairly tactical - there's no auto-fire, and cover matters. You can also double-tap movement keys to "roll" to take less damage.
"Leveling" in the game is different. The "levels" aren't numbered: you have a rank and a grade. You start out at Lieutenant. As you gain skill points, you progress through Lt. Grade 1, then Lt Grade 2, and so on. Grade is gained by earning skill points. To increase in rank, however, you have to spend those skill points. Of course, you normally want to spend them as soon as they're earned, as they do provide a major benefit. Once you hit Lt. Grade 11, and have spent all the points you earned getting there, you will be promoted to Lt. Commander, and gain access to a Tier 2 ship.
It is at Tier 2 where ships become even more customizable. You will choose between a Cruiser, an Escort, or a Science Wessel. Many players don't realize they don't have to (and probably shouldn't!) choose the ship that corresponds to their career. What the different types of ships give you (in addition to different turn rates, hull and shield strengths and the like) is more BO stations and console slots of a type depending on the ship's class. Cruisers have more Engineering slots, Science Wessels have more Science slots, and Escorts have more Tactical stuff. This allows you to really customize and hybridize depending on what you like doing. Your first T2 ship is free; it's awarded to you for being promoted. You can buy more ships - so you can try all 3 types if you like.
You also gain BO skill points as you play, which you can use to improve your BOs. They also have a rank - and you can promote them when they've been trained with a certain amount of skill points. You can promote a BO to one rank under your current rank. So at Lt., your BOs can only be Ensigns. At Lt. Commander, you can promote to Lt, and so on. Increasing a BO's rank gives them access to new skills, and as they gain rank they will have more skills available at once. A Lt. rank BO has 2 space and 2 ground abilities, and so forth. Eventually, you can see, you'll have a LOT of abilities to choose from and use.
Whew. Ok. Hopefully that mechanics run-down made a little sense. Sound daunting? It kind of is - and it's even more complex than I've gone into - I didn't even mention what skills you're spending those skill points on, and what they affect, and how... It's pretty complex. And, to be honest, not well explained in the game's UI.
I know what you're really wanting is a more general run-down of how the game is. Stability, bugs, content depth and amount, things like that. Well, here goes...
I started during the preorder customer Head Start. It was pretty bad, honestly. Server stability was not the best, and server-side lag/rubber-banding was pretty bad. Is this a new thing? Not really - but this was noticeably worse than many recent MMO launches. Things improved quite a bit once retail release happened, but there have been a lot of patches during this first week. Yes, patches are good, as they fix and enhance things, of course, but players really just want to play, so the numerous patches have been annoying the playerbase.
The game's UI is a step backwards, compared to, say, WoW, or most other MMOs. We've all become used to highly customizable, configurable, and very detailed UIs. STO's .. isn't. You can move elements, but that's about it. Some things don't save - like enabling the 2nd and 3rd ability bars. Sometimes. They save for some people, not for others. Quite a few bugs there. Usable, but a definite step backwards.
Content. Well. It's a rule that MMOs at release are always content-light, and this is no exception. There's a lot of repeatable patrol/etc missions, and you do have to do those in order to progress, as the story missions alone aren't enough. On the plus side, the story missions are very well done, and very "Star Trek-y", for sure. Read my first few posts about the game for an idea of how some of them proceed. So, yeah, content is light, and there is literally no endgame content, so level-rushing is a bad idea; good thing I tend not to. ;)
As far as non-leveling things to do, there's plenty. Lots of players (for now) to socialize with, systems to fly around and look at, all that kind of stuff. Even during missions, there's "non mission stuff" to do - crew to heal, things to scan/investigate, and so on. Very Star Trek-like.
One major criticism that many Star Trek fan players have is that there's too much of a focus on combat vs. what "should be" in a Star Trek game. In one way, they're not wrong; there is a lot of combat. But, this is a video game, and most video games focus on conflict, and that usually means combat. That's where the excitement is. So, I understand why there is a lot of combat. Still, though, there are many non-combat mission goals, and some missions where there's no combat at all. The problem, though, is that the non-combat objectives aren't detailed enough. "Scan an artifact" - it's just a single button press interaction. It could be made into a mini-game where you have to press the right controls on your "tricorder", or similar, to make the non-combat stuff feel as detailed as the combat. But... they had to focus on combat for release. That's just a reality of the game industry. I understand it. The beauty of an MMO is that it can and will evolve heavily post-release. If it survives, of course...
I have a lifetime subscription to STO. I hope it survives a long while. With all the negatives I've posted, you'd think I'm saying the game is doomed. Well, I'm not - but Cryptic does need to move fast. The fact that the game is Star Trek will carry it pretty far, but it doesn't make it invincible. They've got to fix a lot of bugs, shore up content, and get the server rock stable. I like the game, and I'm glad I'm Lifetime, but as I said, Cryptic has a lot of work ahead of it.
Published on February 4th, 2010 @ 06:36:49 am , using 361 words, 1132 views
I'll have my full, detailed initial STO review in a few days, once I've had a chance to really get into the second tier of content (and ships!), but I just wanted to at least check in and say "hi."
Still working through Tier 1. Cryptic says about 20 hours to get into T2 and while I haven't checked my /played (and I'm not sure STO has a /played command!), I think that'll be about right once I finally do hit T2. I'm taking my time though. Reading the quest text and such. There's a lot of hidden Star Trek lore gems in the quest texts - STO has no video cut scenes, so if you want story and lore, you have to read.
I'm really enjoying the space combat. There's definitely 2 categories of Captains in the game. You've got your "Arcade Pilots" who expect to just go in, point their guns at the baddies, and blow them up. Versus smaller enemies, that works. Larger ones, or multiple enemies, not so much. Then you've got the ones that understand naval combat a little more. They go in, maneuver for a good shot, choose the smaller and fast (more maneuverable) targets to take out first, and make sure the heavy guns don't get a broadside on them. It's really a different style of combat than most people have seen in an MMO before.
Ground combat is fun too. You've got your team of Bridge Officers to manage, and it can get pretty micro-managey at times - but it's still fun. You can let them "do their thing" and you'll usually win, but against large groups of enemies, or vs. certain types (Klingon Swordmasters and Targ Handlers in particular), you've got to micro-manage your Away Team and get them to focus fire. I was hoping that STO would end up being the "Ultimate Pet Class Game" and it really is! Your Bridge Officers are super-detailed "pets" that you can customize in nearly every way, and you've got a lot of them - and you get to have more as you grade/rank up.
That's all for now; huge long wall of text style review in a few days/next week-ish.
Published on January 29th, 2010 @ 06:08:28 am , using 85 words, 736 views
I'm pretty excited, as Star Trek Online's pre-order Headstart begins today! I'll be able to make my "real" character and get going with the game. It'll be a fun night. :)
I'm also still playing WoW, as a heal-specced Druid mainly, and really liking it. Healers and Tanks are scarce in the random dungeons, so I always get a group near-instantly. I'm planning on leveling and gearing a Death Knight very soon so that I can do my small part to alleviate the extreme tank shortage. :)
Yesterday I mentioned I was considering putting in a preorder for Star Trek Online. Well, not only did I put in said preorder (and CE no less), ... I'm Lifetime. :D It's 4 months of my hobby budget, yes, but - it gives me a game I can play anytime I want, without having to budget in a subscription fee or anything. :)
I kind of like to have options when it comes to gaming time. I'm still playing WoW primarily, and will be for quite some time, but some days, it's nice to login to something else. To do that requires keeping another sub active (or re-upping something for a month), and it's kind of a pain to track sub date overlaps and such. Well, now I don't have to. I'm subbed to STO...forever. :) Woot.
Speaking of WoW, and I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: the Random Dungeon Group Finder is simply pure win. Even with the long-ish wait as DPS, it's STILL pure win. I've had a blast running 2-3 randoms every day, and massively improving my character's gear while doing it. It's the best design idea Blizzard has ever had. Easily.
In addition, I also have to say that porterhouse steaks rock. No, it's not gaming related. Oh well. Deal. I cooked one up for my birthday and it was a work of art. I had Patrick @ D&R market cut me "the best porterhouse he's ever cut" (my words on asking for said slab-o-beef), and he did. Oh "Bob" did he. Anyway. :D
Published on January 18th, 2010 @ 06:24:59 am , using 1052 words, 620 views
So a Star Trek Online open beta key magically showed up in my email last Thursday evening. No idea who hooked me up - but thanks! Over the weekend, I got a bit of time in the beta - as much as I could, given the single OB server is absolutely slammed with people! Seems they're using OB as an extended Stress Test, which is a good idea IMO. But that of course means it's hard to get in.
But, wow, the game is very good. I got through the intro/tutorial and then did the first mission I got assigned to. The intro/tutorial is pretty good - it gets you through the basics of how ship combat and ground combat work, introduces the UI, basically all the stuff you expect an MMO intro to do.
Graphics are very good. I had to update my video drivers to get good performance - seems SLI was enabled for STO back in November but I hadn't updated since then. Once I did that, wow, good performance and great visuals. My machine's no slouch (i7 950, 12GB RAM, 2x GTX295 cards), but there's a lot of tweakable options so I'm sure the game will perform on a wide variety of hardware.
The first mission is what really grabbed me. You're sent out to investigate what happened to a transport that hasn't been heard from in quite some time. It's Captained by an experienced Captain, so it's not like they'd just forget to check in - so Starfleet expects Something Bad(tm) happened. So you warp out to it's last known position, and as you arrive you receive a distress call from the transport, saying they've been attacked by Orion pirates and the ship is damaged and they need help. As you approach the ship, you find a couple of Orion ships still attacking, so you have to deal with them. It's a decent space battle between your ship and the 4 pirate ships, which you can deal with 2 at a time if you're careful.
Then the Captain signals that their warp core is leaking radiation and they can't beam off the ship - plus there are Orion pirate boarding parties onboard. So you gather an Away Team and beam onto the ship to deal with the pirates and stop the radiation leaks. Now you get a good bit of ground combat as you work your way through the transport, ridding it of pirates.
Then, of course, the warp core goes critical and you have to escort the ship's crew to the cargo bay to be beamed off to your ship safely, while the Captain stays behind to try to stabilize the core. Of course, more pirates beam aboard right as this happens, so they must be dealt with too. This is a tough bit of combat - there are a lot, and they're pretty smart.
Once you've got the crew to safety, more pirate ships attack, so you beam back to your ship to command it through another space battle. This time 4 pirate ships - then a HUGE pirate battleship warps in, as a sort of "boss fight" - it's pretty tough, but I got it down. Then you have to beam the transport's Captain onto your ship as her ship is going to explode.
So in this first little mission you're given, you get introduced pretty heavily to space and ground combat, and it's definitely not a guaranteed win - especially the second wave of pirate boarding parties as you're trying to escort the crew to safety. There's a LOT of them and they use flanking and cover pretty effectively!
The thing is - I always expected that one of the "sides" of STO would feel "tacked on" or "limited" or to put it more crudely, that it would suck. Either the space combat would be limited, or the ground combat would be. I didn't expect both sides to be engaging, well done, and detailed. But they are.
The space combat isn't "arcade style." It's real, naval combat. There's firing arcs, and turning speeds, and you've got to present your "best side" to the enemy, while at the same time trying to bring your weapons to bear against their "worst side" and so forth. I'd compare it most closely to Pirates of the Burning Sea. It's really well done!
And the ground combat is just as well done! You can use cover, flanking, you can go into "aim mode" to increase damage, but then you move more slowly and take more damage. You can also roll to avoid attacks, by double-tapping a movement key. It's not twitch/FPS style combat, but it's definitely a lot more active than an auto-attack based MMO. Of course, you've got all kinds of special abilities you and your Away Team members can use, depending on what you're specialized in.
Another good thing I noticed was there's a good loot system! I had been concerned that in a game based on, basically, you being in the military (Starfleet), there wouldn't be a lot of cool loot items to get and work for, like there is in another MMOs. Well, during the ground combat on the transport, I found 3 different bind-on-equip body armor items, all of which seemed pretty decent! So there's loot to collect and such too, which is a good thing, as it's a big goal for a lot of people in MMOs (myself included).
STO is also interesting for being the second major MMO title to offer a Lifetime Subscription - the first being LOTRO of course. For $240, you can get a lifetime sub to STO - and of course the perks they're included with it are pretty compelling, especially to fans of the IP and/or the game itself. Said perks include the ability to design your character as a liberated Borg! Lifetime sub is the only way to do this - and it's only being offered from now until the game releases! It's ... pretty compelling! ;)
So, in 4 days, I've gone from being fairly "meh" about the game, to being pretty damn close to putting in a preorder. O_o I really had to experience first-hand how fleshed out both types of combat were - that was the main thing I had been concerned about. I really didn't think they'd be able to "nail" both space and ground combat. I've rarely been so happy to be wrong. :D
Published on January 14th, 2010 @ 11:16:45 am , using 102 words, 777 views
Well, Return to Ostagar was finally released yesterday and of course we tried it out. Got through the entire module once as the current character.
It's short, I'll say that. It took, I dunno, probably an hour, maybe a little over, to get through it. It was fun, though, and I definitely think it was worth the cost of the download.
There isn't much else I can say without getting into spoiler territory and I don't like to do that. :) I will say though, that it doesn't deliver on some of the plot promises that were made in the teasers for it.
Published on January 6th, 2010 @ 05:40:39 am , using 161 words, 507 views
(As with most of my Dragon Age posts, this post will be kind of cryptic, as I don't want to spoil things for people...)
So last night, we were at a certain point in run-through #4 of Dragon Age, and were expecting a character to do a specific thing, that they have always done before. And they did exactly the opposite! And then proceeded to ... do something other things ... that had us both sitting there, jaws dropped, for about 3 minutes straight while the cut scenes played out.
This game just keeps being amazing, and different every single play through. I've still got at least one, maybe 2 more planned.
It's a shame the DLC was delayed. But, if they found a problem, better to delay than release buggy DLC and piss people off. Still, though, I want see it... damn it!
Also - I noticed they announced a full, paid expansion to the game planned for mid-March! Can't wait for that, to be sure.
Published on January 5th, 2010 @ 07:46:10 am , using 363 words, 731 views
So my last couple of entries have been extolling the awesomeness of the WoW random dungeon finder - and it is completely awesome! There is a weird paradox though. A group in WoW generally consists of 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 DPS classes. So, you'd figure, as a DPS class you'd get into a random group a ton faster, since they're needed in quantity 3 per group. But it's exactly the opposite! DPS classes have to wait much, much longer.
In general, tanks get grouped the very second they click "join queue." As a healer, I usually get in instantly, and always within 20-30 seconds - and that matches up with what other healers are saying. DPS classes, though, have long waits. When I queue my hunter, I wait between 15 and 20 minutes, and that agrees with what other DPS player are saying.
But why? You need 3 DPS players per group - shouldn't they be getting grouped faster? It has to be that there are many, many more people playing DPS than are playing tanks and healers. Maybe the specialized "win/lose will hinge on this player" roles of tank and healer are just a little too much for a lot of players? I don't know - it's odd though.
So, just to get maximum playing per session, I've been queuing as my druid, and picking Healer and DPS for role. Of course, I always get pulled for Healer, and that's fine. I have done a few runs as my offspec, though, and that's been fun too. Of course I had to uncheck Healer role, and had long waits, but it was worth it.
Speaking of which: Moonkin. That's what I chose for offspec, and it's a blast (literally!) Imagine a 7' tall bipedal owl-creature. With antlers. That casts very, very high damage nuke spells. And, if the RNG is with him, even higher damage! So high that the form is given a massive bonus to health and such. Since it's super easy to pull aggro... ;) Very fun offspec though.
I'm also still playing Dragon Age very heavily, and looking forward to the DLC coming out today! What the heck "secret plans and goals" good that puppy-dog-of-a-King Cailan have had?! I have to know.
Published on December 30th, 2009 @ 06:02:04 am , using 322 words, 562 views
I've been playing the druid nearly exclusively, running random heroics via the random dungeon finder, and having a blast. Being the healer gives you a sense of ... accomplishment, for sure. I've realized too that my gear is nowhere near as bad as random_forum_d00ds01 would have me believe. You really don't need full T10 raid gear to run heroics - go figure!
One cool thing though about druids is that you can be a tank, healer, melee DPS, or ranged (nuker) DPS. Just takes a separate set of gear and a separate talent spec for each. And since they added the option to swap between two talent specs ages ago, the talent part is easy. I have a "decent" gear set for melee DPS, but DPS classes are a dime a dozen and I hear queue times are quite long. I could easily get together a tanking set, and tanks say that queue times are faster than for healers! Or, I could go moonkin (nuker), but again with the queue times.
I wonder if the long queue times for DPS is a battlegroup-specific thing though. When I've run randoms on my hunter, the queue times have been longer than for my healer, but not super long. I don't time it with a stopwatch or anything, but I'm an extremely impatient person and it never seems long to me. Maybe 2-5 minutes at most? It never seemed long. Who knows.
Maybe beartank is the way to go though - then I'd cover the "holy duo" (tanking and healing). I can also just not mess with offspec, and use my hunter for "offspec" in the form of another character. He's way behind the gear curve, but with random dungeons that's super easy to fix, and hunter IS a pet class after all.
Who knows - all that matters is I'm having a lot of fun, in a way I haven't before in WoW, so... yeah... glad I'm back again.
Published on December 22nd, 2009 @ 06:07:10 am , using 317 words, 752 views
So I logged on my druid and told myself "ok, time to just try a random dungeon!" I queued up, selected Healer as my role, and in about 20-30 seconds (!!!) I was in The Nexus. Sure, it's supposedly one of the easiest Heroics, but it was all new to me.
The group leader was a paladin, and we had a warrior, a death knight, and a hunter as well. Turns out the pally was the group leader and tank, and he did really, really well. Now keep in mind this was the first time I was doing this dungeon, and I was the healer! We did really well. Destroyed the place, honestly. The only "ack omg" moment was when the pally was AFK and the DK decided to pull a boatload of trash and I nearly lost him. I didn't realize he was going to pull with the main tank and group leader AFK and so I had to get creative with keeping him up - but I did!
Given it was a random dungeon with a 100% pick-up group, the rewards were great - quite a few T9 set piece emblems. The new dungeon finder system is great - you can just queue up for a random dungeon, have just a short wait while a group is assembled for you, and once you're done, you get some nice rewards - especially for your first of the day, and especially if the group is 100% PUG.
I only had time for the one run, and so I left group after we were done and sent a tell to the pally apologizing for leaving them healer-less and he said it was no problem and also said "nice healing!" So, cool, my first heroic run, and I got complimented on my healing. It's experiences like that that'll keep me playing a class.
Now to fix my character's awful gear. My healing set really is bad... Heh.
Published on December 21st, 2009 @ 06:17:29 am , using 253 words, 19268 views
I am still also playing Dragon Age pretty heavily. I've finished the game once, and have nearly finished it a second time. I'm about 1/3rd the way through on a third character, and have a 4th character started as well. Why the heck would I do this?
Well, the first time through was as a female dwarf rogue and I played it "good." The second character is a human female rogue and I've also played it "good." You get different reactions (very different) as a human than you do as a dwarf. The third character is a human male mage and I'm playing it horrifically "evil." You really get different reactions as a mage, and gender also has an effect. And of course, being basically the devil has a large effect on story/reactions too. The fourth character, barely started, is a male dwarf warrior that I'm running just to get a story piece that doesn't seem to be available to any other combination. I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilering anything. ;)
So, you see, there's a lot of replayability with Dragon Age. You're probably seeing that being touted on every gaming site out there... And it's true! Different race/class/gender/alignment combinations give you wildly different reactions and story options.
I'm also looking forward to the DLC that's supposed to be out "sometime this holiday season." I've always been a fan of DLC (I have an absurd amount of Rock Band/RB2 DLC!) and so I'm happy to see Dragon Age being extended via DLC. :)
Published on December 21st, 2009 @ 06:08:55 am , using 527 words, 18985 views
It's odd, but it's happened the last 2 winters: I end up back in World of Warcraft. Not a bad thing, mind you: I like WoW and always have. I followed it in closed beta and was in open beta and played for a bit post release and then off and on (mostly off, of course) throughout it's 5 year run now.
Last winter I picked it up again and played for a month or two, and now I've picked it up again this winter. It's fun for sure. I'm having the typical problem I usually have - what class do I play? I've got 2 level 80s (max level).
One's a druid, which in WoW is an extremely versatile class. It's like 4 characters in one. You can play it as a melee DPS class, a tank, a healer, or a nuker. All you have to do is have a separate full set of gear for each role, and of course a different talent spec for each. ;) The talent spec part is a little easier now - at least you can freely swap between 2 specs. The gear, well, that just takes time, heh. And of course an add-on to manage it - I use Outfitter. My druid has 2 gear sets, one for healing and one for melee DPS (cat form FTW!). The DPS gear is "passable", while the healing gear is, well, terribad. Heh. It's workable - I'd probably only get kicked from groups now and then. But it needs work.
The other level 80 is a hunter. That's a comfort class for me, being the class I've spent the most time on in WoW, plus being a pet class which is of course my favorite thing anyway. His gear is really, really bad, and there's a good chance of being kicked from random PUGs for being "undergeared." Though, of course, people's perceptions of what level of gear is needed in order to beat instances has no relation to the reality of it. Still, they group-kick.
So, do I go with the awesome versatility and potential of my druid, or do I go with the pure comfort of the hunter? Or...
Well, see, there's another thing stopping me from easily choosing one of those... I've never leveled a character in WoW to max level (even when it was 60, nor when it was 70!) myself. Just never mind those 2 80s, heh. So, I have in my mind "Hey idiot, you need to self level something someday..." Now, the prospect of leveling a character from level 1 (or 55 if I choose a Death Knight) all the way through 80 (likely 90 by the time I get there) isn't a thing that makes me go "YAY SIGN ME UP RIGHT NOW!!!!", but I still do feel like I should do the leveling gig myself someday. And I am, as they say, "addicted to the 'ding'." I love seeing characters advance, get new abilities, gear, and such. And of course leveling gives you that.
So, druid, hunter, or roll something and level myself finally? That's the decision I'm weighing. In the meantime, I'm monkeying around on the 2 80s, and will probably do the Winter Veil quests on both of them just for fun. :)
Yup, I'm still alive. Just not posting much, as it's 9°F outside, which makes it too cold to participate in two of my main hobbies. ;)
It's not too cold to game, though, and I am gaming, still playing Dragon Age - on my second play-through of the game, and have at least one more planned - possibly two. Yeah, it's that good. Awesome replayability.
MMO-wise, I'm playing Ultima Online. Yes, it's 12 years old. Yes, the graphics suck. Yes, it's an awesome game. As I posted in a previous post, it's kind of an old home for me, being my first MMO, and Ultima in general being my "first love" in gaming in general, all the way back to the mid-80s. So, yeah, I'm playing UO. On Atlantic.
Other than that, just living life and enjoying things. It'll probably be near Spring before there'll be much hobby stuff to post about. I certainly can't fly in this weather... :D
Published on November 30th, 2009 @ 06:54:40 am , using 148 words, 1058 views
I've now finished Dragon Age once, and am going through it as another race. The replayability is that good. I'm getting very different reactions from NPCs, a few different quest choices, and am planning to make a few different decisions at major plot points this time.
I can't say enough good things about this game! I usually get frustrated with single-player games by this point, but not so with DA... I still just want to play more and more, and see everything there is to see!
At the end of my first "win", I had only explored around 67% of the world! And that's right at the point of winning the game! So, I've still got a lot more to see - and even in the areas I have seen, I'm getting new quests and such this playthrough.
And I still want to find out why Sten massacred that family...
We were approved for adoption via Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue and on Saturday we drove up to Niles, MI and picked up Daisy. :) She and Roxy (and our 5 cats) all get along great, and Daisy seems very happy in her new home. Had her vet-checked yesterday and all is well, except for a small, easily cleared up ear infection!
Published on November 16th, 2009 @ 06:28:59 am , using 754 words, 1957 views
Dragon Age: Origins is the best RPG since Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, and due to technological advances, is indeed a far better game even than that venerable classic.
With that sweeping statement out of the way, I want try to put the statement in perspective. I'm not a "dabbler" in RPGs. If I were to write up a list of top-10 games, they'd all be RPGs. No shooters, platformers, Mario games, sports games, or anything but ... RPGs. Ultima IV is considered the first game (or one of the first games) to move from "hack and slash" focused play into the realm of moral choices and such - and is still revered for doing so. Dragon Age takes that light years ahead!
So when I say it's the best RPG since Ultima IV... that's not something I say lightly! But... it is.
I've had the game for 3 days now, and ever since the first night, I've been wondering how to write up a blog post about it, without spoiling anything. I accidentally read a spoiler about one of the origin opening stories, while I was trying to decide if I was going to buy the game or not - and regret having done so. So I wanted to be able to post about the game, yet not have any spoilers! Not easy to do!
I can say the "M" (Mature) rating is 100% deserved, and then some. And don't go thinking it's just for profanity - actually I don't think I've even heard the word "damn" yet. There's no profanity; the "M" rating is all in themes and content. When you play the game, you will see what I mean... :D
The voice acting gives new meaning to the term "Hollywood quality" in video games. I'm a huge critic of voice acting in games. Two Worlds? Yeah, couldn't play it - the voice acting was beyond horrible and I just couldn't get past it. I'd rather have a game with text only, than one with jarringly bad voice acting. Dragon Age's voice acting is incredible.
Another thing I liked was that they took some interesting twists on the "standard" fantasy races of Dwarves and Elves. They're in there - and recognizable as Dwarves and Elves - but the cultural twists the writers made are very cool. The only other race is Human, leaving only 3 race choices, which makes things pretty manageable as far as make your character creation decision.
The class and skill system is pretty well done. There's 3 classes: Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. What would be done in other games via more class choices is done here as skill/talent choices as you level. If you want to be a sword-and-board Warrior you pick things that support that. If you want to use 2-handers instead, you pick things to make that happen. It works very well.
I really can't say enough good about this game. I don't buy many games, because I mainly play MMOs, and it's hard to justify the cost of non-MMO games since an MMO can be played for years, while non-MMOs, generally not... But Dragon Age... yeah. Just buy it!
Speaking of MMOs - once a year, I usually re-up my Ultima Online subscription for a month, just to see how my old home fares. I haven't in a couple years, but I recently did, and I'm actually staying for a while this time. The game is still going strong, and actually is gaining players again! It's pretty much the only MMO left with any "sandbox" style gameplay. It's certainly not for everyone. You have to not be graphics-focused; the graphics are, well, terrible. You have to want the sandbox play, because there's no funneling or direction or guiding...at all. You decide what to do, and that's that! Do you worry about building a "gimped" character? Well, that's pretty easy to do in UO. ;) Sure, you can fix it, but it takes time.
But the rewards are great! Tired of feeling like you're just "along for the ride", being carried through a game as if "on rails"? None of that here. You make every choice, from every skill your character learns, all the way to what you want to do. Other than pre-NGE SWG, there's never been a more "open" MMO.
We're still considering ourselves EQ2 players as well, but she's been working on getting some xmas gifts made early, since some of them can take a while, so we haven't got any EQ2 time in, but I'm sure we'll be back in Norrath before too long... ;)
Published on November 10th, 2009 @ 06:04:05 am , using 100 words, 762 views
We talked with the screening person from the breed rescue last night. She just ran down some of the same questions that were on the application, and let us know how the rest of the process will go.
Basically, someone will check out our references, and another will request specific pictures of our home, and will then follow-up on the phone with a detailed questionnaire about our home environment. Then, assuming we pass all that, we drive up to get our dog! She said this will likely take a week to ten days. No biggie. :)
We're pretty darn excited, though...
Published on November 10th, 2009 @ 05:55:33 am , using 179 words, 605 views
I'm waiting on a package from China. Ok, well, technically Hong Kong, but still. China. Most R/C pilots use batteries from Hobby City in China. It's literally a choice between buying one battery or buying 2 or 3 (sometimes 4). Kind of a no-brainer, unless you're weirdly into brand names. The packs perform the same, and in some cases, better than, the brand names anyway!
Anyway, I can't finish the airplane until I have batteries, because the next thing I need to do requires the servos and such to be powered up. The order should be here either today or Thursday. Then I'll center the servos, install the control links, set up the throws, verify motor is spinning correct direction, then put on the cowl and landing gear and she's done and flyable!
I'm getting very excited to finish this up! I usually hate working on airplanes, but this one, I really enjoyed the process. I took my time, and it still went very fast, and I had fun doing it. I'm also getting super-excited about the upcoming Top Secret Projekt™. Muahahaha.
Published on November 6th, 2009 @ 07:27:16 am , using 72 words, 820 views
Motor and ESC mounted. Elevator and rudder horns installed. Just need to mount the aileron horns, install all the linkages, install the receiver, then do control throw setup, install the cowl and landing gear, then she'll be flyable!
Of course, I'm racing bad weather, so it may not fly till Spring anyway - but at least I'll have a flyable plane again! :)
And I have a Top Sekrit Projekt™© coming in about 8-10 weeks... ;)
Published on November 5th, 2009 @ 06:32:44 am , using 159 words, 607 views
That's the inner box. :D That comes inside 2 other outer boxes - these things are packed VERY securely.
Opening that box reveals this: a 3D Hobby Shop Extra 330SC! Well, in ARF form anyway.
That's what she looks like all dry-fit together, before I did much work on it. 57" wingspan, about the same in length. I didn't "finish" it last night, but I got a lot of the work done. Horizontal stabilizer centered and glued on. All control surfaces are hinged and all 4 servos are installed into their bays. Next I'll have to mount the motor and ESC, put on the control linkages and center them and set them up - but I need my radio gear and batteries for that and I'm still waiting on that stuff!
BUT - I have a plane - and it's a really amazingly nice quality model and looks great too!
Hopefully I'll be able to get a maiden flight in before 20° and below temps! :D
Published on November 2nd, 2009 @ 07:26:03 am , using 124 words, 650 views
Hey, whoa, I changed my mind! Amazing eh? /sigh.
Anyway, I'm re-entering the R/C flying hobby - and since I sold everything, I get to re-buy everything! Yay! Heh. At least I kept my high-end Hyperion DUO charger, so I don't have to go with a cheapo charger.
Anyway, I already have the motor and speed control (and servo extensions) in for the new plane - and the plane itself will be here Wednesday, and the servos sometime before that - so before long there'll be unboxing/build pics here!
I'm getting a 3D Hobby Shop Extra 330SC - a 57" wingspan model. It should be an amazing flier! I can't wait to get it in the air, though that could be SPRING the way the weather's been. We'll see!