Six years.

Wow, I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging for six years. I don’t stop to appreciate it much, but even though I don’t blog regularly in any sense of the word, I need to cut myself a little slack for maintaining a blog for six years, no matter how sporadically I post. And it’s definitely been sparse outside of Blaugust. Speaking of, I haven’t kept up with the “post every day” thing, but I hadn’t intended to anyway. I have been getting one or two in a week though which has been great. After looking at my archives, I don’t think I’ve been this motivated to post since 2011.

Anyway, I wanted to send out a big “Thank you!” to everyone who stops by to read and comment. Onward to year seven!

Delta Rising Debrief

Several dev blogs have come out in the last two weeks that I’m just now catching up on. My favorite new feature has to be Grapple Guns! While I would love to be able to use these anywhere, I really doubt that will be the case. None of the existing maps will have been developed with the idea that players can move in three dimensions. I actually wonder too if even for maps where grappling is intended to be used if it will be something where it can be used on any surface or only against specific attachment points. The latter case would be much safer from a development standpoint, but I really hope it’s not that limited.

More details are out on Intelligence Specialist Bridge Officers.  In space combat Specialists can go into a regular bridge seat that matches their profession or a universal one, but they can’t use their specialist abilities. There’s no restrictions for ground combat, which means even if you’re not in a Tier 6 with specialist seating, these new officers will still be valuable for away teams. Intelligence abilities will be thematically focused on debuffs, stealth, and crowd control. Some ground examples:

  • Feign disintegration and get a short term stealth effect, speed bonus, and ambush bonus.
  • Spawn a photonic decoy to draw enemy fire.
  • Tag an enemy at distance and initiate a site-to-site transport to bring them to you and disorient them briefly.

Space combat examples:

  • Fire an EM pulse probe that will travel towards a target disabling any intervening enemies and then explode damaging the target and any nearby enemies.
  • Evade target locks to give a massive accuracy debuff against an enemy and become untargetable by enemy torpedoes and mines.
  • Transport warhead will allow you to beam a torpedo directly onto an enemies bridge, bypassing shields and possibly knocking a system offline.

These are just a few that I liked, there are eleven ground and eleven space abilities described in the blog. As primarily a Science Captain, these look especially fun to me.

The new Kobali Adventure Zone is for players level 54 and higher. Similar to the Voth ground battlezone, for Kobali you beam down with two bridge officers. You can also team with other Captains without having to send your officers back to the ship, which you can actually do for the Voth mission as well if you wait until you’re in the battlezone before teaming up. Cryptic is promising that Kobali will be as scalable and team-friendly as the Voth ground zone while also allowing for a rich personal story-line. That sounds perfect if it works as advertised. While I enjoy the Voth ground map on occasion it does get repetitive quickly, despite how much dilithium you can earn doing it

Of course reputations are a given with any expansion or major update to the game now, and Delta Rising is no different.  The Delta Alliance Reputation will be added with the expansion and bring Delta Marks as the basic reputation currency along with Ancient Power Cells for equipment unlocks (or getting bonus dilithium ore). The reputation offers a four piece space set called Delta Alliance Assault (engines, shields, deflector, and warp/singularity core), a three piece space set called Delta Alliance Ordnance (console, polaron beam array or heavy cannon), and neutronic torpedo), and a three piece ground set called Delta Alliance Elite (combat armor, unimatrix shield, compression phaser rifle). All gear is listed as Mark XII, which seems odd given that the new maximum gear level is Mark XIV. Possible typo?

Nope. not a typo and there’s also a new Gear Upgrade System. So items will now have a leveling system called Tech Points. Once an item has enough to qualify for an upgrade a Basic, Improved, or Superior Tech Upgrade item can be used to upgrade it to the next Mark level. Basic Tech Upgrades will be available from vendors (or crafteD), while Improved and Superiors upgrades will be crafted only. Crafting recipes unlock at 5, 10, and 15 respectively, and the recipes won’t require dilithium. This seems to be intended to promote crafters putting them on the Exchange. The dilithium cost comes in when an upgrade is applied. Upgrades will use a similar slotting system to the revamped R&D system, so you’ll be limited to how many items you can upgrade at a time. Also the upgrade process will take a certain amount of real time to completed. It’s not mentioned but I assume you’ll be able to pay additional dilithium to speed that up just like you can with R&D projects.

There’s also a Research Point track for items, which I wasn’t so clear about from the blog that allows bumping up an item’s quality (common to uncommon, etc.). That doesn’t seem quite as important as bumping the Mark level up, and seems like it over complicates things. Of course until it’s in the game we won’t really know.

We’re finally starting to get some solid details about the expansion now. I expect Cryptic’s dev and PR arms to continue to get busier as we near the October release date.

Delta Rising Intelligence Ships Design

Yesterday, Cryptic posted a dev blog about the design process behind the ship design for the new Delta Rising ships. I’m not going to get into the whole debate of whether they’re Trek-like or not. That’s completely subjective. I will say I liked the thought process behind going for a visually cohesive set of ships designed around a set of themes.

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ea6f653a84709eff9d2361ef6103083a1410803753Of the three, I still like the tactical one the best. The nacelles look influenced by the Defiant design. I’m not totally sure about the swept back part, since I haven’t seen a side view, but it reminds me just a bit of Moya from Farscape which I’ve always loved. The blue lighting is great, although I prefer the grey hull material above to the dark material on the right.

dc3ae406801cc585115ed7afe8e4791a1410803795Unfortunately the science ship is still my least favorite of the three. It is nice to see that the open area in the hull can be filled in, having an open ring in the saucer section just doesn’t look good to me. My other issue is that the ship seems to be patterned after the Luna-class ships, like Riker’s Titan. Vaulyn - Recon Science VesselI’ve never liked the extra science pod that sticks out on top of these, although I did eventually get used to it when I flew a Recon Science Vessel. So, it’s possible that the design of the new science ship will grow on me. Pictures are nice, but nothing really compares to seeing it in the game and the ship customizer.

 

STO Fleet Nights

Sunday night was Fleet Night in Star Trek Online. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to go. I had been playing Shadowrun: Crossfire all afternoon, and just barely losing, and I really wanted to keep at it until I finished a Crossfire mission. But it’s kind of bad when you don’t go to an event you’re organizing, besides having Fleet Nights was supposed to get me playing STO more regularly. So I logged in and figured if no one showed up then I’d go back to Shadowrun.

Scopique and Ocho were already one though and Mindstrike, Talyn, and Warren all showed up as well, so we ended up having a pretty good night. We plowed through the Crystalline Catastrophe and Azure Nebula Rescue, and then Defera Invasion hard missions (which were slightly more bugged than in previous weeks), and then finished the night with Undine/Voth space battlezone. It was a fun night. Ocho was just coming back to the game after an absence and we kind of pulled him straight into the fire with us, but he did fine.

So the Fleet Night experiment continues. For me at least, it’s doing exactly what I’d hoped by getting me to play more frequently.

Microsoft, Mojang, and Minecraft

So it is actually true. Microsoft bought Mojang for $2.5 billion.

When I first heard the rumors, my first reaction was there was no way they were true. Then they persisted with no response from Mojang or Notch, and I began to think they could be afterall. With the official news today confirming the rumor removing all doubt, my first reaction was dread and the neither the Mojang post linked above nor this one from Phil Spencer at Xbox make me feel any better. Both are to PR crafted for me to take anything from them about what’s ahead for Minecraft, Let’s Plays, and modding.

To be fair, even if they had come out with specific promises and plans, I wouldn’t be feeling much different. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. I and a lot of other Minecraft players, modders, and YouTubers will be watching closely to see what Microsoft actually does with the property. I hope that given the amount of money involved and their prior relationship with Mojang that Microsoft has plans in mind, but I’ve worked for too many companies where management made odd decisions (almost always due to internal politics) to assume that Microsoft has a real plan until I see it in action.

Just to be clear, I don’t hate Microsoft and I don’t think they’re evil. Corporations are neither good nor evil. Public corporations like Microsoft exist solely to make money. Which makes me wonder though if Microsoft sees the YouTube and modding communities as a valuable enough part of Minecraft to adjust their policies to accommodate both groups.

The best thing I’ve read today about this was Notch’s note about the sale. From the Minecraft documentary and interviews I’ve seen, I fully believe that last part of this post:

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.

I’m glad he found a way to get out on his own terms and I wish him all the best going forward.

P.S. This sums things up nicely:

Screenshot_2014-09-15-15-12-09

Scattered Thoughts

The Adventure Co 2.0 met last night for its first real session. It went well, despite some technical hurdles with Roll20’s video and audio, plus most of us just being out of practice. Initial session’s are always awkward anyway (in my experience) because players don’t know each other’s characters well and usually aren’t into their own character’s head either. That will improve quickly as we get into the adventure. Regardless, it was a log fun doing some real role-playing again even if my poor Gnome Monk didn’t get to punch anything.

It’s rare that I get to be a proud Hoosier in geeky sense so I was pretty stoked to see that Indiana was number 9 on the list of states with the highest percentage of Star Trek fans.

On the board gaming front Handelabra just announced an October  16th release date for the Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. It’s a tablet app version of one of my favorite super hero card games. A common complaint about the card version is all of the book keeping you have to do. Sometimes, I like that as it slows down the pace of the game and can become more of a meditative exercise to keep all of the effects going on in mind. But other times, it would really be nice to just pick up a few heroes and go defeat Baron Blade, and it looks like Handelabra’s version will fit that niche perfectly.

Anyway, I’m off to relax and watch my copy of The Winter Soldier that arrived today.

Difficulty

I like to avoid frustration in my gaming hobby. Fighting games especially are something I avoid now, as once upon a time I broke a couch kicking it after a bout against the CPU opponent. The surest way for me to end up putting down a game and never coming back is to suddenly ramp up the difficulty level without warning or preparation. Having said all that, I’ve been spending the last few nights attempting to win the third quest in the Lord of the Rings card game, Escape from Dol Guldur. I’m at about eight attempts now with zero successes, which is well past when I would have give up on a computer game and moved on. Board and card games like this are more like puzzles than tests of reflexes, which apparently causes me less frustration. I’m planning to keep at it until I win.

D20s and Cards

Adventure Co.

Last night was supposed to be the initial session of Adventure Co. 2.0, but Scopique had a water heater emergency and had to cancel. Totally understandable, and I hope he gets it fixed quickly and cheaply, but I’m a homeowner myself and those two things rarely go together. Even without our Dungeon Master, the rest of us (Adventure Co veteran Tipa from West Karana and new comers GrilledCheese28, Oakstout, and Girl Grey) hung out for about half an hour and talked over what kinds of characters we were thinking of playing as well as played around with the tools in Roll20.net. My initial impulse to play another Wizard changed a bit after reading through the Player’s Handbook (PHB), and I’m now thinking of going with a Druid. I’m not totally committed to it yet but I also like the idea of playing a Forest Gnome. I expect to change my mind a few more times before next Thursday.

The 5th edition rules remind me quite a bit of 3.5 and earlier, but there’s also some Fate influence in the rules (or similar narrative driven system). There’s a chapter on personality and backgrounds which helps fill in character details beyond the normal height, weight, and alignment. You now decide on an Ideal that drives your character, a Bond that ties your character to a person or place or event, and a Flaw to make you character interesting. They’ve also added the mechanic of Inspiration, which is given out by the DM as a reward for playing into your character’s personality traits and can be used to gain advantage on rolls. It’s not quite the same but it immediately made me think of Aspects, Compels, and Fate Points.

Reading up on 5th edition and getting on Roll20 last night with the group had me excited to work towards running a Fate Core game. At least once I get my Adventure Co character figured out and we’re a few sessions in.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Among the many board games in my backlog, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, has been on there the longest. I actually bought it a few years ago before I really got back into board games because I saw it on the shelf of my Friendly Local Game Shop while browsing Warhammer 40K minis (which I like to look at but never buy) and role-playing game books and saw that it was designed for 1-2 players.

So now years later, I’ve attempted to get started with the game a few times, but the game is very difficult and I’ve found that I’m pretty awful at constructing decks. So in March I started reading through and playing decks based on Beorn’s Path. The Hall of Beorn is one of a half dozen blogs dedicated to the game and Beorn’s Path is a nice series of articles that introduces players to building decks that can be used to complete the quests in the base game as well as the first six adventure packs, The Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle. Like most things I ended up distracted and didn’t pick the series up with Part 5 until this evening when I finally managed to beat the second quest in the base game, Journey Along the Anduin, on my third try.

I’m not ready to review the game yet. I haven’t played it nearly enough and I’m still at the novice stages of being able to build decks and learning all of the available cards even out of the relatively small core set. My initial impressions though are that the game is very tough and unforgiving. Luck feels like a big factor to me, but I have the feeling from what I’ve read that feeling is more because of my beginner skill level and because of the game itself.

Return of Fleet Night

Last night was our second fleet night. It went even better as we had a full team of five and were able to run all of the Defera hard quests, Into the Hive, and the Voth ground battle zone. The Borg Queen gave us some trouble again in the Hive STF (normal mode still) but we eventually succeeded. We ended up playing from 9 until midnight, which made for a rough morning for me getting the boys up for school and daycare, but was totally worth it.

We also added some Mercy Gaming members to the fleet. Warren joined us for most of Fleet Night, Jaren and Torek hadn’t unlocked access to the Dyson Sphere yet unfortunately.

This is only the second organized night, but I couldn’t be happier with how well it went. I’m looking forward to playing Sunday night. Now if I could only remember to hit my Fraps hotkey to take screenshots.

Three Dev Blogs! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Cryptic release not one, not two, but three dev blogs today. The biggest news by far for me are the additional Voyager cast members doing voice work. Robert Picardo’s The Doctor was my favorite character from the series and I really hope he’s heavily used in the new content. In addition to Tim Russ as Tuvok and Garret Wang as Harry Kim, Jeri Ryan will be back as Seven of Nine (although I believe she goes by Annika now) and Ethan Phillips as Neelix.

The second dev blog us about a new Space Event involving the conflict between the Borg Collective and the Cooperative. This one interests me more from the lore discussed in the dev blog than in thinking about playing the actual event. Seeing this contrast between two versions of the Borg is fascinating to me and I’m very interested to see where Cryptic takes it.

The third blog outlines what Cryptic is calling the Delta Rising Operations Pack, which is the equivalent to the Legacy of Romulus pack that was released for the last expansion. At $125 it’s too expensive for me. I’ll wait an buy ships and equipment piecemeal like I did with Romulus. Despite that, there is some good new information in the dev blog regarding the new type of ship.

The new type of ship will be called Intelligence. There will be three for the Federation, I assume in Tactical/Engineering/Science flavors, and one each for Romulans and Klingons. There will also be an additional Intelligence ship for each faction that is based on the theme of Voyager’s journey home. The blog mentions in passing that Intelligence ships will be able to launch drones to scan enemies for weaknesses which the Intelligence Bridge Officer can exploit through powers. This sounds to me like a combination of the current Science scan power plus the singularity powers that Romulan captains can charge up and unlock.

The screenshots of the new Intel ships look really good. Unfortunately the Science ship is my least favorite of the three Federation ships. Hopefully that changes when I see it in game, sometimes screenshots don’t do these ships justice.

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Tier 6: Intel Cruiser, Tactical, and Science Ships