Posts tagged ‘swtor’

Naming, Roses and Earthsea

It doesn’t look like I’ll ever get around to writing up all of the notes I took on Star Wars: The Old Republic, even though it’s way late for a review anyway. I’ve cancelled my subscription and even though it doesn’t expire until August, I doubt I’ll bother logging in because my character died.

So he’s not technically dead, as in deleted or lost, but I lost both my character’s name and legacy name in the recent server merges (because let’s be honest, that’s what they are). Now, I’m sure at least half if not more of you are thinking so what, and that’s probably because you agree with Shakespeare. I don’t, at least not for proper names. I’ve always thought Ursula Le Guin and Pat Rothfuss had it right. Names matter. I realize a large number of people couldn’t care less, log into just about any MMO and spend half an hour in a major social area if you don’t believe me. But I get highly invested in a characters name in both stories and games.

Honestly, I really shouldn’t have bothered with the character transfer from Sanctum to Ebon Hawk. I should have stayed on the dwindling server and finished my class quests (which I’d left sitting for a month or two) and not worried about it. I assumed though that I would eventually want to join up with friends a be a bit more social eventually, so I might as well get it over with. Had I known that BioWare was condensing six PvE-RP servers into one I would’ve realized the chances of keeping the name Kae or legacy Bluestar were infinitesimal. Hindsight, blah blah.

The end result though is that after doing the super quick transfer, I logged in and had to change my character’s name. After seventeen attempts I found a variation on Kae that wasn’t taken, although by that point I didn’t really care. When I tried to set my legacy name back and got the message that it was taken, I decided I was done. Melodramatic? Probably, but it was a completely honest reaction and has stuck with me days later.

It’s ironic that the very process which will hopefully revitalize the game, has completely killed my interest in it. Even more so since BioWare seemed to have some really interesting stuff planned for the next release.

So rather than returning to my Jedi Guardian, Kaevn Blank, I’ve headed back to Star Trek Online for my science fiction fix. Cryptic get’s a lot of heat, sometimes deserved and sometimes not, over their business practices, but I really like the way they’ve done their server architecture. Like with CCP’s EVE, there’s only one server/world/shard for STO. Even better names only have to be unique for my account handle and account handles can hidden in chat (I don’t think they ever display on-screen).

Looking Forward to 2012

Family

Before I get into what games I’m looking forward to, I wanted to mention some personal and blog related things. My wife and I are expecting our second little Kae to show up sometime in June. I’m sure that’s going to kill any time I have to play MMOs for a few months. I really dislike logging into an MMO, when I don’t know if I’m going to get pulled away at a second’s notice. When my son was born, I focused mostly on single player games, since I could pause it and go do father things without worrying about ruining anyone else’s game.

Not playing MMOs will either mean that this blog goes silent for a few months, or you’ll see tons of posts as I’ll have lots of time to read, think, and write.

Writing

Last year, I tried an experiment with posting consistently on week days. I wasn’t perfect about it, but I did well enough to consider it a success. I stopped doing that mid-summer though once it started to take the fun out of writing. I don’t regret doing it though as I developed some good habits and even got to the point where I started to feel antsy if I hadn’t written anything by the end of the day. Kind of like those healthy people who talk about missing the gym. I guess anyway, I’ve never felt that.

Anyway, this year I’m trying a new experiment. I write a lot from my phone and from work, basically anytime that I get an urge to put pixels on a screen. Most of the time though, those posts go into the draft folder and never emerge. I always intend to edit and publish them that night, yet rarely ever do. So this year, I’m going to try skipping the editing stage as much as possible. After all, if there are any really stupid grammar or spelling mistakes, I’m going to be much more motivated to fix them if the article is public, and this way I’ll not have any regrets about not getting an opinion or idea out in a timely fashion.

So now you know, if the blog stays empty it’s just because I have no ideas and not because I’m a lazy self-editor. Finally, let’s talk about some games.

PC/Xbox

This is the first year in a while, that I’m not really looking forward to much. Mass Effect 3 is basically my whole list for the year.

I believe this is a good thing though, because my backlog of unfinished, never played, and never installed games is getting embarrassingly massive. I still haven’t gone back to Skyrim and finished my first play through. I have the last DLC for Mass Effect 2 to finish. I’ve barely touched Minecraft since the 1.0 release in November. Then there’s my Steam library, let’s just not even start on that.

So while there’s not much new I’m looking forward to, I’m still excited for single-player and offline gaming this year.

MMOs

Rift

While I do still have an active subscription, I’m not planning on renewing it in April. As I mentioned in my 2001 review, I had a ton of fun with the game, but between feeling so behind with all of the content updates and most of my friends playing other MMOs, I have no interest in going back.

Champions Online

I fully expect to keep playing in Millennium City off and on as Cryptic adds new story missions and new power sets. Honestly, I’ve already started eyeing the launcher as they’ve added some cool new costume options recently as well as the Earth and Wind power sets. The cool thing about this game is I have no expectations for the coming year, so I’ll enjoy whatever comes.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m playing a ton of TOR right now. I have a Jedi Knight Guardian in the mid 40’s (level cap is 50) and am nearing the end of the story missions. This means I’ll hit the mythical end-game soon. Generally when I do that, I start an alt and lose interest in repeating content after a few days. This is followed by moving on to another game. With TOR, I’m hoping that having some fresh class missions will be enough to keep me interested and get a second character to 50. We’ll see if BioWare manages a first in my gaming history.

Interestingly, I’m already feeling like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of TOR, so if I do end up cancelling my subscription, I’m not going to feel bad about it. I suppose that because the game really has felt like playing KotOR 3.

Looking at the rest of the year, I hope to still be playing in June but I kind of doubt it given my history at level cap. Obviously once the baby get’s here, all bets are off.

Lord of the Rings Online

After taking most of the year off and then getting in a solid month, LotRO has been on hold since November. First it was Skyrim and then it was TOR keeping me from playing. Eventually, I’ll return to Middle-Earth and resume my hunter Brynulf’s journey into the Gap of Rohan. It may well be the fall, but it seems like I always go back to LotRO eventually, and that makes me happy.

Star Trek Online

After an extremely rough year, I really hope that STO turns things around. The F2P launch is happening (today actually), and the long awaited Featured Episode Series Four is coming as part of the second anniversary of the game.

Past February, I want to see a permanent Executive Producer hired and I really want to see the monthly Engineering Reports and Ask Cryptics restarted. I know there have been a few new hires since the PWE acquisition, but I’d like to see the team continue to grow, and start seeing that investment payoff in more regular updates of new features and new story missions. If we get to December and have seen Featured Episode Series 4, 5, and 6, I’ll be very happy. If not three FE’s (which D’Angelo doesn’t think is likely), then I want to see more single mission story content added.

One thing I do want to clarify though, I’m not at all disappointed or upset with the Star Trek development team at Cryptic. I think they’ve done as much as possible given some pretty difficult situations over the last six months (if not longer).

Looking Back at 2011

Xbox

Last January, I wan’t looking forward to much on the Xbox. In fact, there were just two games: Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Akham City. Unfortunately Mass Effect 3 was delayed, but Akham City more than made up for that. The game had everything I loved about the first Batman game but added improvements, and even though I’ve finished the game, I still pop it into my console occasionally to beat on some thugs.

Outside of Arkham City, my Xbox didn’t get much playtime, which I guess is why it decided to red-ring on me in December. I had hoped by waiting through the first few manufacturing runs and getting an Elite, that I had dogged all of the overheating problems with Microsoft’s console. I was wrong. The repair process was relatively painless: go online and submit a repair request, print out a label, box and ship it out. I just wish it hadn’t cost me $99.

PC

The PC had a few more titles I was excited about: Minecraft, Portal 2, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 – Retribution (could the title be any longer?), and Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. Well okay, Minecraft was a bit of a cheat since it was pretty much already released. Portal 2 was as good as I hoped it would be, and I got to have some extra fun by playing through the co-op version with MMOGamerChickDoW Retribution I’ve barely touched. I really really loved the original Dawn of War games, but the shift in focus from base building to boss battles has soured me a bit on the franchise. Space Marine made up for my disappointment in Retribution though, the game was over the top gory fun. Some people may try to tell you that using a chainsword on an Ork get’s old, but they’re lying to you.

Unlike with Xbox, this last year also had two big surprises for me on the PC platform. First there was the colossal disappointment of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This was a game I was not anticipating in the slightest, but ended up buying because of the wave of good press and excitement from friends. Unfortunately, I only put five hours into it before running headlong into a boss battle geared for the exact opposite type of character that I was playing. I realize I’m in the minority opinion on this game, but I still strongly believe that you don’t build a game around choice and then take it away during the central moments of the game.

The second big surprise happened in exactly the same way, but with opposite results. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was another game that I wasn’t anticipating at all. Like DXHR, I hadn’t played any of the earlier games in the series, and even though the screenshots looked good and I thought I might like it, I was wary of letting myself get sucked along with the ground again. In the end, I did end up going ahead and getting it, and I’m so glad I did. Skyrim has been a Minecraft-like experience for me (which is ironic given the legal battle between the companies). Just like I got sucked completely into Minecraft last year and played nothing else for months, my gaming time was wholly subsumed by Skyrim. Today, I’ve put 117 hours into just one single-player game. One hundred and seventeen hours. That is incredible, considering a good single-player game usually lasts me no more than 40 (like Red Dead Redemption or Arkham City). But even more incredible is that after more than a hundred hours, I’m not even halfway through the main story line.

PC was much more exciting this year than I thought it would be. I’m not sure that 2012 will be though, but I’ll save that for later.

MMOs

Rift

Trion had the perfect situation this year. From January to November, they had the only new major MMO title. I think they capitalized in it very well too. They’ve been continually releasing new content and making tuning changes. Honestly if anything, I think Trion’s proved it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. They’ve been updating the game so much, that when I came back after a month away, it felt like I’d been gone for six months or more.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare ended up releasing much later in the year than I expected. This ended up being a good thing both because they had more time to get things right, but also because they managed to get through the hype backlash I was expecting before release (or even beta). There’s not too much more I can say about TOR as far as 2011 goes beyond I got in at launch, had no problems, have seen no queues, and am immensely enjoying the Jedi Knight story line.

Champions Online

Champions has been a fun game to hop into of f and on over the year, especially the few times I’ve gotten to play with Scott. The game had a successful F2P launch and has released some good story content with their first Comic Series and a third Adventure Pack. While I haven’t had that original love of the game rekindle, I’m sure I’ll continue to login anytime I get an urge to play superheroes.

Lord of the Rings Online

Last year, I was feeling pretty down on LotRO. The F2P conversion caused an explosion of gold store buttons in the interface that just got under my skin. My disinterest continued for most of the year, including well into the development cycle for Rise of Isengard. It wasn’t until I saw a developer diary with some video about the making of Orthanc for the game, that I had any interest in returning to Middle-Earth.

Once I got back in the game, I was motivated enough to finish Volume 2 of the Epic Quests, get caught up on Volume 3 in Enedwaith, and charge on towards Isengard. I didn’t make it to level cap before Skyrim started dominating my playtime, but I was really happy with the new work Turbine has done on the game and I’ve finally trained myself to not see the store buttons.

Star Trek Online

And lastly, we come to the MMO that I’ve had both the most and least fun with during 2011.

The game started out very well. We had an anniversary event, an excellent renovation of Earth Spacedock, and then a third Featured Episode Series, Cloaked Intentions. The Series 3 was the best one so far and featured great missions, fun voice work, and the music from Amok Time.

Unfortunately, that was the high point of the year. We did get the Foundry followed by a good revamp of ground combat in Season Four, but we also got Atari selling Cryptic, Dan Stahl leaving the Executive Producer role, Free-to-Pay announced, and no new story missions.

Whether it was Dan leaving, the change in ownership from Atari to Perfect World, or the announced F2P transition, the high level of communication and transparency that I loved in 2010 has vanished. The last Engineering Report was released in August, with no word about if or when it’s coming back. The last Ask Cryptic was in September. Granted, the temporary Executive Producer Stephen D’Angelo did write a lot of blogs during the F2P development, but I found them pretty thin on details.

Overall, it’s been a disappointing year for me in STO. I guess I have to have at least one MMO to be down on at the end of every year.

Very interesting, but not surprising.

When I was on my break, I saved a link to the SWTOR forums posted on Twitter by Zelibeli. The post talks about the distribution of player guilds that have been pre-registered and shows that there are more guilds/players on the Empire side than the Republic. That alone is interesting since in most MMOs the “good” guys usually end up with more players, although I think that has more to do with which side tends to have the uglier character models.

Even more interesting was the distribution of players by faction and sever type.

Type Empire Republic Total 
PvE     17327  18262    35589
PvP     31556  15093    46649
RP       4819   8049    12868
Totals  53702  41404    95106

There’s very little difference in strength between the factions for PvE rules, but Empire players dominate PvP and Republic players out number Empire 2-to-1 in RP.

A Curious Lack of Excitement

I pre-ordered the standard edition of SWTOR from Amazon. I wanted the digital version but it’s only available from Origin.com and I’ve already talked about how I feel about that. I’ve also applied to the Multiplaying group’s guild, Delusions of Grandeur. It feels odd to me to be applying to a guild for a game that I can’t even play yet but apparently it gives the guild some kind of benefits so I went ahead and pitched in.

All in all, that is the most attention I’ve given to TOR in months. Now that there’s a release date, of sorts, I feel like I should be excited. I feel like I should be impatiently waiting for the December. But I’m not, I’m much more excited for the upcoming Arkham City. It’s odd because Star Wars was my first scifi love. I was incredibly excited for SWG when it came out. It took me weeks after watching the Phantom Menace to admit to myself that i didn’t like it.

Maybe it’s prequelitis? I gave up on them after watching Attack of the Clones. I’ve never seen Episode 3 and can’t even tell you what the movie title is, or care to Google it. I did watch some of the animated Clone Wars series and enjoyed it but a lot of the magic was lost. Fumoggin midichlorians.

Maybe it’s trust? I was a huge fan of KotOR but never played the sequel after reading about all of the bugs and half finished story, so I should be ecstatic that BioWare is doing a real sequel. Maybe if TOR were a single-player game I would be, but it’s not and I’m not convinced either BioWare or EA are up to the challenge of managing an MMO after seeing how poorly DragonAge’s patching and community were managed.

Maybe I’ve gotten too good at countering the hype?

In the end it doesn’t really matter. I’ve pre-ordered, I’ll be playing at launch, and I have friends that are excited enough for ten of me.

E3 2011: Day 1

I’m not at E3 and I didn’t watch any of the live streams, but I’ve been catching up on the news of the day.

SW:TOR – Yet another movie. It’s a geat movie and it breaks my heart how much better it is than Episodes 1 and 2 (I gave up and never saw 3), but this is a game not a movie. I want to see more gameplay video.

Batman: Arkham City – I caught this inteview and gameplay demo on RPS, and man does this game look great.

Minecraft – It’s cool that Minecraft is coming to XBLA. I’m not interested in Kinect integration though and I’m not sure I’ll bother to buy the Xbox version. Half of the fun of Minecraft is modding it after all.

Mass Effect 3 – I’m surprised how much they’re showing of the game. I expected Bioware to be pretty quiet about it since it was pushed back. I’m honestly struggling a little bit with what I’m seeing in the many videos. It looks like the pace of combat has sped up considerable, which is great if you’re an FPS fan but I’m not. Still, I’m keeping in mind the lessons from ME2 where the marketing gave me a lot of bad vibes that turned out to be completely false.

Kinect Sidenote: All of the Kinect tie-ins worry me a bit. I’m really hoping Microsoft doesn’t manage to figure out something cool enough that’ll make me want to buy one. It’s not that I hate the Kinect or anything, but my Xbox is in my office which is a small fourth bedroom in my house, and there just isn’t room to set one up and stand 8 feet away from it. Well not without remodeling.

Sony Update: I’m adding this a day late since I didn’t watch it live or stay up to see the post-conference news about it. I was impressed with Tretton’s apology, but I think Sony would’ve done itself a world of good to do that earlier though. Not being a PS3 owner, more of the news I didn’t care about but there were two things I wanted to mention.

PS Vita – That is not a good name, but that’s nitpicking. As cool as the technology sounds, the only thing I thought about when reading about the new portable was that I have a PSP that’s in a box in my closet and I haven’t played with it in more than a year. Even when I was using it, it was basically a Lumines machine. They did get the price right at least.

Dust 514 – Being an exclusive is a mistake. Yes, I’m sure there were business/technical issues with Microsoft but I don’t care. CCP’s new shooter is going to be competing with a lot of established brands and limiting sales to just one console is not a good idea. I’m under the impression that the game is not coming to PC, but hopefully I’m wrong about that. Then again even if it does, I have to wonder if PC players and PS3 players will be able to play together. They can’t in DCUO.

Looking Forward to 2011 – MMOs

This will be an interesting year.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

A lot of hopes have been pinned on this game. Some people’s expectations for TOR are so high, that I don’t see how the game can match them. So there will be a lot of disappointed people when the game launches. I myself have been trying to stay away from the news and hype for the game as much as I could for most of the year.

It’s Star Wars so I know I’m going to get it and give it a shot for the first month. It’s basically KotOR 3 (only this time finished unlike 2) so I’m sure I’ll play through at least one or two of the storyline (probably light-side Jedi of some flavor and a Smuggler), but I’m also not expecting to still be playing this game in December. This is basically a single-player game with a subscription fee, it’s something I’m not particularly excited about money-wise, but it is Star Wars so what can I say.

Rift

For the longest time I had trouble differentiating between this game and Tera Online, so I’m glad that they’ve changed their name.

Unlike TOR, Rift was not an instant buy for me. I didn’t have any interest until I started see some of the news and videos about their rift system for dynamic PvE content.

I’ve been in a few of the semi-closed beta events and gotten a chance to experience the new system. It is quite a bit of fun, and in several ways rifts could be considered a more dynamic version of Warhammer public quests. The game is an evolutionary mix of WoW’s and Warhammer’s game designs with a touch of Aion’s graphical style. In short, it doesn’t break the DIKU mold common to MMOs, but it is fun.

Like TOR , I don’t foresee this being a long-term subscription for me. LotRO has been my main fantasy game for years now, and I expect that to continue, but who knows. A lot can happen in twelve months.

Guild Wars 2

Here’s the short version: excited for the game, hesitant about NCSoft.

The original Guild Wars has a lot of faithful fans, but I’m not one of them. I bought the game when it released and I’ve played it off an on over the years, but never for very long. Primarily, I think, because of the focus on private over public instancing and the number of invisible walls in the outdoor maps, the game’s just never clicked with me. So it’s been exciting to me to see that ArenaNet is addressing both of those issues in Guild Wars 2.

NCSoft though has me worried. They’ve had some real problems with their security in the last year, and their customer support hasn’t been much better. Hopefully they get their act together before GW2 launches.

MMO Wish-list

If my personal predictions turn out correct I won’t really be playing any of the new 2011 MMOs all year. Come December, I’m expecting that my core games will still be: Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Champions.

Star Trek Online

Of all the MMOs I currently play, this is the one I’m the most happy with. Cryptic’s made a lot of improvements in the eleven months since the game launched, and I like a lot of the plans that I’ve heard Daniel Stahl talk about for the game.

Some of these are things that Cryptic has talked about and some are, but here’s some of the changes (both small and large) that I’d like to see happen this year.

  • Ship-wide uniforms. It’s a real pain right now to keep my bridge officer’s uniforms consistent, and there’s no to customize crewman uniforms for when walking around the spacious hallways of my ship.
  • Speaking of spacious, there’s got to be someway to bring the scale of the interior maps down at least a little bit.
  • Allow bridge officers to have multiple uniform slots just like command officers do.
  • Improve the save/load functionality in the tailor so that uniform saves are easier to distinguish from one another.
  • Make the pop-up dialog that occurs when crossing zone borders optional. I’d like to be able to leave Sol and set a course for DS9 and not have to keep an eye on the ship to approve warping from one Sector Block to the next.
  • Ability to disable ships rather than destroy them. Even if it’s only a cosmetic change where enemies pull some kind of emergency warp. It wouldn’t even have to happen all the time, but incorporating disabling ships in some fashion into the combat system would make the game feel just a bit more Trek-like.
  • Change the ground combat system to something cover-based. I would love to see Cryptic borrow some design decisions from Bioware’s Mass Effect 2 and make STO’s ground combat more about moving from cover to cover rather than standing still out in the open and depending on personal shields. Tweaking melee combat so that it’s not a Benny Hill kite-fest would be good too.
  • Keep doing the Featured Episodes! Taking a month off here and there is fine, after all TV does too, but I’d love to see a commitment from Cryptic that this is a permanent feature of the game.

Champions Online

Even with my interest trailing off in the second half of 2010, I do enjoy hopping into the game from time to time and heroing about. Of course I’m a bit concerned about how the F2P switch will turn out, but I’m not worried about the same over-commercialization happening that happened with LotRO.

First, Cryptic already has a store interface in the game and it’s not nearly as prominent as Turbine’s is.

Second, there’s no way to earn Cryptic Points in the game (or there wasn’t last time I checked), so there won’t be an annoying pop-up message anytime I finish a Perk or Adventure Pack reminding me about the store.

Third, a little commercialism fits pretty well into the Champions setting. I’m also don’t have emotional ties to the Champions property that go back to my childhood.

So aside from seeing how the F2P change works out, all I want from Cryptic’s Champions team is more. More new zones. More new mission. More new costume pieces.

A few new levels wouldn’t hurt either.

Lord of the Rings Online

Last year with LotRO was a real roller-coaster for me. A one-two punch of little to no content updates and way too much marketing of the store.

My hope is that this year Turbine turns things around, and given recent interviews where they claim to have tripled their revenues, they really have no excuse not to.

  • There needs to be a configuration option to turn off the store buttons and TP alerts. I don’t care if I’ve earned another 10 Turbine Points. I may care if I can buy a consumable to speed up crafting sometime, but I usually don’t and I’d rather not be reminded of it every time I open the crafting panel.
  • Regular content updates. They don’t have to be large and I actually prefer that Turbine keep them small and frequent rather than dropping a single large one half-way through the year.
  • Expanded cosmetic system: more costume slots, the ability to bring one’s cloak hood up or down without switching cloaks, and cosmetic weapons.
  • A total revamp of the legendary item system. Drop the lottery aspects and make LI’s work more like a person’s skirmish soldier.
  • For the love of Tolkien, find someone to make some decent hats.

I’ve always felt the Turbine did a good job of staying close to the spirit of Tolkien’s lore even if they had to bend the letter of it to fit the MMO genre, but the commercialism that’s invaded the game since it went free-to-play has gotten out of control.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed, Turbine, don’t let me down.

Looking Back at 2010

December is done and 2010 along with it. Seems like a lot of people are happy to see 2010 go, but the last twelve months of gaming here in Kae-land have been pretty good.

New MMOs in 2010

There were four MMOs scheduled or rumored for 2010 that I was keeping an eye one.

Star Trek Online

The game launched on time and pretty smoothly. At least smoothly enough that I don’t remember encountering any problems eleven months later, unlike Anarchy Online’s launch which I still rememberyears later.

The game had a larger flood of launch players than I expected, but it seemed like that initial wave passed through pretty quickly. Say what you will about Cryptic, but I do like their single world architecture. Not only do you not have to play the server-coordination game with your friends, but there’s also no drama over server queues or merges.

For such a new game, not quite a year old yet, STO has made a lot of improvements. Cryptic has added a diplomacy system (months before I expected them to), several new sectors of content, revamped the crafting system (twice, although more work needs to be done on it), updated sector space, done two month’s worth of weekly episodes, and done an excellent job of following through on their promises of transparency with their Engineering Reports. They’re also close to releasing a user-generated content system, the Foundry.

Of course, Cryptic has caused a lot of drama and made a lot of mistakes this year as well, but I have to give them credit for their responsiveness. The Star Trek team has been especially good at gathering community feedback and then acting on it. Daniel Stahl has done an excellent job since taking over as Executive Producer, and I’m very optimistic about the future of the game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Even with all the new information this year, my expectations haven’t changed much.

I like the emphasis on story. Going fully voiced will be an interesting experiment to see how players react and the impact on adding content. I’m sure I’ll buy this even if I don’t subscribe past the first month just to see for myself how Bioware did. Besides the original Knights of the Old Republic was one of my favorite games on the first Xbox.

One thing has changed though, I’ve been surprised about how poorly Bioware has managed the hype for the game this year. In 2009 they’d been doing an excellent job of keeping people excited for the game without letting community expectations get unreasonable. I can’t say the same about Bioware for 2010. It seems to me like the backlash I was expecting to follow the game’s launch has already started.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

My expectations for Cataclysm were set at “wait and see.” That was where they stayed right up until the expansion launched. Despite my general lack of enthusiasm, I did end up buying it. I blame Twitter.

I played through the Dwarven starting zone again (up to level 11) to see what the old world was like now and came away pretty disappointed. It was different, but it was just streamlined a bit and not the Azeroth shattering new experience I expected.

I also started a Worgen Mage and I’m about halfway (just judging by levels) through their starter area as well. I have to say, it’s fun so far but it’s not living up to the hype. That’s the tricky part of this. There’s a lot of hyperbole out there about how amazing Cataclysm is and how fantastic the new zones are, and I don’t think that the game lives up to it’s reputation.

Who knows, maybe I’ll change my tune once I finish the starter area. December just hasn’t been a good month for me to spend enough time with any MMOs.

DC Universe Online

DCUO was supposed to release in November, but SOE pushed it to the beginning of 2011. I think this was smart for two reasons: Cataclysm was scheduled for December (duh) and they listened to the feedback from their beta testers (something more developers should do).

I said back in January that I would wait until I’d had a chance to beta the game and make a decision close to launch of whether or not I’d play it. Well both of those things have happened, and I’ve decided to give it a pass. The reasons for that decision deserves a more in-depth treatment than I want to go into just now, so let me just say that there’s nothing that DCUO does for me that I can’t already get from playing either Champions Online or Arkham Asylum.

Old MMOs

At the start of 2010, there were three MMOs that I was playing regularly and/or subscribing to: Lord of the Rings Online, EVE Online, and Champions Online. (I’m thinking of making a New Years Resolution soon to boycott the use of the word Online in MMO titles.)

Lord of the Rings Online

Whew, what a year it’s been for LotRO and Turbine. It started out as my favorite MMO. I was (and still am) in a great Kinship (which it still is) and was having lot’s of fun in the game. Then came June 4th and the Free-to-Play bombshell. I was completely blindsided by the announcement. Maybe it’s because I played on Landroval, which was always one of the most populated servers, but I had never considered the possibility that Turbine would go the DDO-route for the game. Eventually, after the shock wore off and I was able to look at the details, it really didn’t seem like the F2P change would have a huge impact on my playing experience.

Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be quite correct. My minute to minute playing experience is mostly the same as it ever was, and I’m not paying any more to play the game than I was before, but the level of store integration into the UI really started to get to me. Between the alert that shows up anytime I do something that earns Turbine Points and all of the little gold buttons that link to the store (of which there are three on the crafting panel alone), I’ve found that my interest in logging in and playing as dwindled down to nearly nothing.

EVE Online

I was doubtful that I would still be subscribed to EVE by the end of the year. I did end up stopping the subscription on my second account, and would have canceled my primary except that it renewed before I got around to it. That’s not totally a bad thing as I’ve continued to train skills (towards no particular goal) and I’ll get a chance to try out the new character portrait generator when it comes out. Regardless though, I’m definitely letting the account lapse in March when the current six month cycle is up.

Champions Online

My plans to have this be my other primary game besides LotRO turned out to be true until I go my first hero to max level in March. After that, I played with some alts and returned for the Serpent Lantern Adventure Pack, but my playtime has dwindled down quite a bit this year. I have to be in a certain (rare) mood to enjoy re-experiencing content, so once I’ve been through the game once my playtime almost always declines (which is true for me in all MMOs).

Console Games

Mass Effect 2 was my favorite console game of the year. Great story, great graphics, and much improved combat over the previous game.

Red Dead Redemption was my second favorite console game, and one I almost missed. I hadn’t paid any attention to it at all until Scott from Pumping Irony asked me if I was getting it. I’m glad he did, because it turned out to be a really good game and the first Rockstar game I’ve ever finished.

Star Wars: Force Unleashed wasn’t new but I’d skipped it on release because of poor reviews. I ended up picking it up after news that a sequel was going to be release, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. So good, actually, that I was able to add it to my very small list of completed games. Ironically, based on several trusted sources, it seems like the sequel is a stinker. That’s too bad, but at least it got me to buy the first one.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions turned out to be a disappointment. The game was way more linear than I wanted it to be and has ended up in my limbo games stack. These are games stacked up next to my 360 that I feel I should finish but probably won’t.

Fable 3 was also a disappointment and will likely be joining Shattered Dimensions in limbo soon. It’s really too bad considering how much I loved playing Fable 2.

PC Games

Minecraft! Minecraft! Minecraft!

I’ve played and enjoyed a lot of PC games this year, most of them acquired via Steam sales, but the stand-out PC game for the year for me has been Minecraft.

I’m still surprised by how much I enjoy this game. I’m usually a shallow gamer. Good game-play is important of course, but no more so to me than the good graphics. Generally when a sequel to a game comes out I stop playing the older version, even if I don’t enjoy the new version as much, because it just looks better. What can I say.

If you qualify as a Crafter or Explorer personality type, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you do end up liking it, come check out the multi-player servers I’m running.

Looking Forward to 2010

If the release schedules and expectations hold, 2010 will be an interesting year. There are the two huge science-fiction IP’s coming via Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, Blizzard is doing something of a reboot of the Warcraft world, and the DC/SOE juggernaut is expected as well. SWTOR is also interesting since it marks Bioware’s entry into the MMO genre, and I’m very very interested to see how well they are able to bring a focus on story over to a massively multi-player environment.

My biggest concern for 2010 is a repeat of the Warhammer effect on SWTOR.  Warranted or not there seem to be a lot of players who are expecting SWTOR to revolutionize MMOs, kill WoW, and possibly cure cancer. I hope I’m wrong, but I think that most of the gamers disappointed with 2009 will also be disappointed with 2010.

So here are my bullet points for the coming year. Continue reading ‘Looking Forward to 2010’ »

Pickup Groups in SW:TOR?

After seeing more of the game-play footage, I’m wondering if there will be pickup groups in TOR.  Assuming that you can find players at the same point in a story quest, is it really a good idea to group with strangers knowing that they are going to be making from of the dialogue choices?  This seems like a new way to grief people.  You group up with a light-side Jedi and try to steer all of the conversations toward the dark-side end of the scale.