Archive for the ‘Rambles’ Category.

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

Fleet Night

Blaugust is over! Huge thanks again to Belghast for organizing this, it was just the motivation I’ve been needing. Also congratulations to the Survivors and other Winners.

Star Trek Online is the only MMO I’ve really stuck with on a regular basis after hitting the level cap. That’s not to say I haven’t taken extended breaks from the game, which I have, but it’s the only MMO that I actually return to unlike LotRO and Champions which I want to play but never seem to actually login to.

Unfortunately STO isn’t too popular among my circle of Internet friends, so I often log in do some stuff solo and log out. Our small Fleet of bloggers and friends generally only gets active in the months leading up to and following a content release. In an attempt to correct that a bit, I’m trying to push myself to organize some events, the first of which was last night. I’m hoping to make this a semi regular thing, depending on people’s schedules, to try and get the Fleet to be more active.

Scopique from Levelcapped, Talyn from Pumping Irony, Mindstrike, and myself got together in-game last night and had fun queueing up as a team for half a dozen events. My favorite of the night was the Into the Hive task force. It had some great voice overs of the Borg Queen that really added to the atmosphere of the mission. I never seem to remember to take screenshots when playing games, I suppose I’m just too involved in the moment. Fortunately Mindstrike remembered and snapped this victory shot after we defeated the Queen.

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Blaugust Finale

Today’s the last day of Blaugust. I’m pleased to say I haven’t missed a day, which around the 7th or 8th I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage. In part I think it just took a few weeks to knock the rust off of the mental gears needed to post something everyday, but it was also a matter of having the courage to cover more personal topics than I usually do. a final piece fell into place around the middle of the month when I stopped worrying so much about “was it ready” and got to the point where I started to think “good enough, publish it.”

This last change was the most valuable part of Blaugust for me. I have long had a bad habit of writing up a rant or opinion piece on whatever the current big issue was in the MMO space and then saving it as a draft with the intention of coming back the next day to proof it and then publish it. Except I rarely ever came back to it the next day. Writing provides enough of an outlet that I don’t have the same need to get it published unless I do it right when I’m done.

I know a lot of bloggers struggled this month and maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this on and off for years. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been through the NaNoWriMo experience a few times and that was much more difficult. But I really enjoyed this and having a daily deadline was necessary motivation for me. I hope either Belghast or someone else takes up the idea next year.

Beyond the writing challenges and growth that I’ve enjoyed this month, I’ve also enjoyed the community aspects. I’ve added a few new blogs to the blogroll and my RSS reader, and picked up some new friends and followers on Twitter.

Thanks Belghast!

Day 31 of Blaugust

Broken Token

Marvel LegendaryA big challenge involved with board games is organization and storage. Imagine for a moment that your Steam games library required physical space. After buying a game or ten during one of Valve’s insane sales, and hopefully playing the- sorry I can’t even finish typing that without laughing, you then had to figure out where to store it. Now add the additional challenge of organizing the pieces of the game inside the box. While some board games come with good inserts, most do not. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and Marvel Legendary are two pretty good inserts, but after three expansions the Marvel Legendary one will literally not fit one more card.

The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight just came with a basic cardboard insert, nothing fancy but nothing worse than what an average game comes with. Unfortunately there was no thought given by FF for expansions and LotR the LCG has had a lot of expansions. The original core game started with 226 cards. Add to that 3 Deluxe Expansions, 3 Saga Expansions, 3 full Adventure Pack Cycles, and half of a fourth and the current card count is now 2,290 card. Once the current Cycle finishes and the next announced Deluxe and Saga Expansions come out the card count will be 3,026.

IMG_20140223_213042Initially for storage I tried a plastic organizer, but I wasn’t happy with the results. There was a lot of wasted space in the box and the cards were loose enough that I worried about them getting bowed (something that’s been and issue with my Pathfinder insert). Plus I didn’t like losing the art for the original box.

IMG_20140830_141015Months later, I ran across mention of a company that does custom inserts for games called The Broken Token. Their kits are laser cut from thin wooden sheets and they have a nice once that works with any of FF’s card games either sleeved or unsleeved. It would allow me to reuse my LotR LCG box and was only $19, so it was well worth a try.
I got the organizer today in a flat envelope. The kit contained some directions and four sheets of wood. Assembly only took me about 15 minutes and no tools. From looking at the instructions that can vary a little bit since sometimes the pieces need to be trimmed slightly, but I had no issues with mine. It actually took me longer to get all of the cards organized and into the box than it did to put the kit together.

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The insert allowed me to take the original box and a stack of Expansions, plus the plastic case of Adventure Packs above and condense it all into the original box.

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click for a full-size image

While I’m super happy with how easy it was to put together and how well it’s organized my game, I’m also about out of room in the original box. Plus I don’t have room in it now for the threat counters and tokens necessary to play the game. So when the remaining three Adventure Packs and two Expansions come out, I’m definitely not squeezing them in. One option would be to get a binder with card pages in it like a Pokemon or baseball card collector uses. Another option is a larger box and organizer. That one is quite a bit more expensive but looks very nice.

It may be odd, but I think organizing board games is an interesting aspect of the hobby. There’s a lot of room for creative solutions either with third-party products like Broken Token’s or DIY crafts like foam core inserts.

Day 30 of Blaugust

Names

twitter bio

I abhor drama. I avoid getting involved in it unless it’s absolutely necessary, especially Internet drama. However, I also think names are extremely important. So when there’s four blog posts in me RSS this afternoon about the term Gamer, I can’t help but weigh in.

I don’t see every changing my Twitter bio. Well maybe I could remove the “lazy” part from writer/blogger if I keep up my Blaugust pace in September. But the “avid gamer” part I don’t see ever changing.

Calling myself a gamer refers to what I like to do with my free time. For a long time that that just meant video games. Initially it was only console games, then for a long time it was only PC games, and then it became both. In recent years that’s expanded to include tabletop games as well: card games, board games, miniatures, and role-playing games with actual pencils and papers and polyhedral plastic dice. Those are all just different types of games even if some are made of bits, some cardboard, and some plastic. So as long as I enjoy spending a good portion of my free time playing games, that label fits. If it picks up negative connotations because of stupid people doing stupid things, well that’s not a new thing. Being a gamer wasn’t considered a good thing when I was a kid either.

Times change and connotations fade. We’re living in a world where a movie made by a comic book publisher about a team of misfit criminals including a walking tree who (usually) only utters three words and a talking racoon has made about $277 million and is still going. Anything is possible.

Day 29 of Blaugust

Tier 5 Upgrades

Yesterday Cryptic released the one dev blog a lot of people have been waiting impatiently for, upgrading Tier 5 ships.

Upgrading is done via Zen through the C-store, for between $5 and $10 (subject to change as is all of the dev blog information). The upgrade is per ship but account wide, although I don’t seem many people flying the same ship on different alts. T5 upgrades are free for special ships, basically anything that came from a reputation event, the lobi store, or a lock box.

Upgraded T5 ships only have four levels unlike the five for T6 ships. Just like T6 though the ships will scale up their hull and shields as they level. Since they don’t have the last level that T6′s do, they cannot unlock a Starship Trait. Of course if you have a T6 and unlock a trait you can still use it while flying a T5+ ship. T5+ ships also won’t have specialist bridge officer seating.

There’s a linked page with a list of all of the ships in the game along with whether they are upgraded for Zen for for free. What I found interesting about the page though was just seen how many ships are in the game now, and those are just the Tier 5 ships.

I’m still having a hard time getting worked up over the new ship tier and the upgrade process. Apparently I’m one of the few based on the 204 page forum thread regarding the upgrade post. T5+ ships won’t get the Starship Trait or specialized bridge officers, neither of which we have details on. There’s also this quote from the blog:

Only the most challenging new level 60 content will strongly benefit from using an upgraded Tier 5 starship or a Tier 6 starship, however it will not strictly require it.

The two bolded sections basically read to me that T6 ships will have an easier time, but are not required for any of the new content. For me, that means that I’ll likely stay with my current ship, a Vesta-class, unless I really like the look of one of the new T6 ships.

Picard Maneuver

Speaking of how many ships are in the game, add one more. The Constellation class is being added to STO. The most well known example of this class being the USS Stargazer, Jean Luc Picard’s first ship. This is C-Store ship that adds a new skin to the Heavy Cruiser Refit, a Tier 3 ship, along with a new console called the Warp Burst Capacitor. This emulates the Picard Maneuver, which involves a ship performing short duration a high warp acceleration directly towards another ship causing them to appear in two places at once. The STO console gives a brief  untargetable status, moves your ship forward a short distance, and gives you a short ambush attach bonus.

The console is nice enough that I think a some players will pay the 1000 Zen, $10, just to get that. Then there’s the ship collectors and role-players who’ll want it too. The majority of the player base isn’t going to buy ships right now anyway given that no one’s likely to buy new ships until the T6′s come out with Delta Rising. Personally I’m tempted by the console, but I don’t think I’ll get it unless I come up with a build where I think it will be handy.

Day 28 of Blaugust

Boardgame Appstravaganza

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately playing the app versions of board games. Especially a few of the competitive 2-player ones like Star Realms and Summoner Wars. I bought the Master Set for Summoner Wars at GenCon last year but never got a chance to play it, and I’d been eyeing the iTunes App Store jealously for months because Playdek had an app version of the game but wasn’t supporting Android until recently. Star Realms is one of the hot games right now, so when I found out about it no one had a copy in stock. While I was waiting on a restock to come in, I found that they had an app and shockingly it was available on Android and not on iOS yet. So I actually played Star Realms for a couple of weeks before my physical copy showed up while I was down at GenCon.

Star Realms is done in Unity, which is why was available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. The original iOS delay was due to the normal Apple approval delay. For $5 you get access to the game on all four platforms and can play games against anyone regardless of what device they’re on. That’s a pretty good deal. Summoner Wars isn’t Unity, so supporting multiple platforms is a lot more work (or so I imagine). The app is free with in-app purchases to unlock additional factions, I went with a bundle that unlocked them all for $8, and have been enjoying the game a lot.

It appears that the board game apps trend is picking up more momentum. Paizo announced a partnership with Obsidian just before GenCon to bring their Pathfinder Adventure Card Game to devices. Fantasy Flight is developing a game based on Battlelore : Second Edition, a miniatures game I’ve wanted to get but haven’t because I knew I’d rarely get to play it. Czech Games is making an app version of Galaxy Trucker, and Handelabra Games is making a digital version of Sentinels of the Multiverse. Even cooler is that two of these games Battlelore Tactics and Sentinels of the Multiverse: the Video Game are already announce for both iOS and Android. The Pathfinder teaser site doesn’t say anything about platforms, but they were demoing the current prototype on iPads at GenCon, and the Obsidian person I talked to said it was being developed in Unity, so I expect it will come to Android as well. Czech Games has stated that they are developing for multiple platforms but are planning to release on iOS first and then other platforms.

While I do enjoy the analog experience of board games, it’s hard to beat the convenience of the app versions of games. Not only can I play with people regardless of location, I can have multiple asynchronous games going at once.

Day 27 of Blaugust

Delta Quadrant Developments

t6report It turns out my guess yesterday was pretty good about what the redacted Engineering Corp Report was. We got a little bit more detail today about Tier 6 ships. The additional bridge officer slot was to be expected along with the usual hull and shield points and additional console slot, but the new stuff sounds pretty good: Specialist Bridge Officer seats, Starship Mastery system, and Starship Traits.

The Specialist Bridge Officers have access to the normal abilities for either Tactical, Engineering, or Science depending on which profession they belong to. In addition they’ll have a access to a new Specialist pool of abilities. Unfortunately that’s all Cryptic is saying for now. The way the report is written suggests that there’s only one new pool of abilities, but I may be reading too much into it.

The Starship Mastery system is a little bit more interesting to me. Basically Cryptic is adding a level attribute to Tier 6 ships that will grow from 0 to 5 as Captains gain Skill Points. Gaining Mastery levels will unlock passive abilities which vary depending on the class of the ship. A Starship Trait will unlock at level 5 and if slotted into your Captain’s traits gives a powerful bonus regardless of whether or not you’re flying a Tier 6 ship.

Unfortunately that’s the extent of the details in the latest Dev Blog. This has become a theme so far where Cryptic unveils some new information about the upcoming expansion but only really provides an outline of what’s coming. I was starting to get a little frustrated at the trickle of information Cryptic is releasing until I saw the new expansion trailer.

This has gotten me excited again. I’m especially curious about what ship is at 0:57, and more importantly can I get my hands on one.

Unknown Ship in DR trailer at 57 seconds

Day 26 of Blaugust

Different Kinds of Excitement

Since becoming a parent, I’ve had to say and do a lot of things that I never thought I would ever say or do. For instance tonight I had to explain to my five year old that it doesn’t matter if he only pooped a little bit in the tub, he still has to get out of it so I can drain it and clean it. Fun times.

Star Trek Online

On a more fun note Captain Smirk, the Community Manager for STO teased this today:

Calling all Captains, this will be a big week for #STO so keep your com channels open! So much cool stuff is coming…

I can only guess that means there will be a bunch of dev blogs released. Hopefully with substantial details to placate and/or inflame the playerbase.

And after checking the STO site, there is indeed a Starfleet Operations Report posted. Most of the sections are marked redacted for now and lead to a “Coming Soon” page, but I like the LCARS-ish format they’ve been using for these posts. I’m not sure that the Engineering Core report would be, maybe something more about Tier 6 ships? There’s another Intelligence Briefing about a Delta Quadrant species. Hopefully it will be an exciting week in the no-drama no-forum rage sense of the word.

Adventure Co.

I got my copy of the D&D Player’s Handbook today for 5th Edition. I had actually already started  on my character but I’m not sure now. My first impulse was to make a Human Wizard, which is the same character I ran in our first campaign. My character in our aborted second campaign was a Goliath Warden, but the quick start rules I was using last night were pretty bare. Flipping through the book today, I’m leaning towards rolling a Gnome instead but either keeping the Wizard class or maybe going with Sorcerer. I’ve always loved magic-using classes.

Day 25 of Blaugust

Mondays and Shadowrun

Parenthood

  • Monday’s aren’t all bad.
  • Kids don’t have limitless energy, they drain it from their parents.

Home Ownership

One of the elusive achievements in home ownership has always been completing a repair or improvement project in one trip the to the hardware store. In twenty or so years of owning a home and somewhere over 40 projects undertaken, I have never managed to complete a project in exactly one trip to the store. Either I have to go back and get something additional, or I have to go back afterwards to return something I didn’t need.

This weekend I completed the very minor fix of replacing the toilet seat in the master bathroom. Probably about the simplest repair possible, but I’m counting it. I got a seat that matched in color, and that my wife was happy with when I got home. Neither of those are easy tasks.

Shadowrun: Crossfire

Crossfire Job CardLast night I got out my copy of Shadowrun: Crossfire to try a solo play. I had originally planned to try the Extraction job that’s included with the game since I’d seen it was geared for 1-4 players, but it is marked as advanced difficulty recommended for runners with 5 or more points in upgrades (more on that in a future post). So instead, I set up for the Crossfire job and planned to play with two runners.

My first play through started well enough but I ended up losing the just before the halfway point. I retried after swapping in a Troll for the Elf I was using for the second runner and going from a character with 4 hitpoints available to one with 9 made a massive difference, even if the Troll had a limited initial hand of cards.

I enjoyed the game, although not as much as I did the one I played at GenCon for the release event. Partly just because it is more fun with more player cooperation, and partly because we had a fifth person managing the game and teaching us the rules. I know I made a few mistakes last night and that always drives me nuts, even though it’s pretty much a part of the board gaming experience.

I’m planning a full impressions post sometime soon. I just really need to get a few more games in and get a better handle on the rules. In the meantime though, here’s a picture of the setup from the first game last night with a brief description.

Crossfire Solo Game LayoutOn the left side are the two runners I was using, a Human and an Elf. Each runner has two role cards, in a four person game each runner would have one role, and in a three person game one runner would have two roles. Next to the race and role cards are the runner’s draw deck and current hand. On the right side at the top are the six Black Market cards which can be purchased and added to a runner’s hand. As cards are bought, they are replaced from the Black Market deck. Below the Market are three more decks: Crossfire Events, Normal Obstacles (one bullet hole), Hard Obstacles (two bullet holes). Obstacles are dealt out to runners to defeat and Events are used to add additional hurdles to the game.

Day 24 of Blaugust