Catching Up

Lots of newsworthy events this week.

Minecraft Beta 1.4 is out and has cookies and wolves. Beds will now your spawn point too. This will be great for going on long distance exploration where I can setup a base camp and not have to worry about getting killed and going all the way back to the original spawn point of the world.

Cryptic brought the Foundry online. The launch seems to have gone smoothly, and players are busily remaking old mission from the beta on Tribble as well as making new missions. The Delta Flyer crafting mission is also up and involves a daily mission to scan anomalies in a shuttle.

Rift’s patch 1.1 is out and adds a ton of fixes plus the River of Souls event. One of the great quality of life updates is separating the cool down on potions by type, so now I don’t have to worry about throwing an explosive philter and locking myself out of using a healing potion for the next two minutes.

One the Xbox side of things, there’s new DLC for Mass Effect 2, apparently this is the last bit of content before Mass Effect 3 comes out. I can’t image the new content tops lair of the Shadow Broker, but anything the puts me back in the ME universe is good fun.

Lots of stuff for me to play this weekend, too bad it’s not a three day holiday weekend.

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.

Busy Week

It’s going to be an exciting week!

Star Trek Online has really hit it’s stride recently with their weekly episodes, so I’m very much looking forward to the third episode of the Deferi-Breen arc on Saturday.

Lord of the Rings Online free-to-play (or free-to-try as I like to think of it) launch starts on Friday, the 10th, but I’ll be in headstart on the 8th, which is for current subscribers and F2P beta players. While, I’m looking forward to getting into the new zone, I’m still ambivalent about the store and LUA changes. Still, the sooner the changes launch, the sooner we’ll see how it impacts the Landroval server community.

My Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions preorder is in the mail. Of all of the super heroes in the Marvel and DC universes, Spider-Man has always been my favorite, and I’m really hoping that this game will be more like Spider-Man 2 and not Web of Shadows.

I finally finished all of the available Mass Effect 2 DLC last week, just in time to pickup and play the Lair of the Shadow Broker which should release today. Like I mentioned last week, my excitement level tripled when I saw the trailer for the new content, it looks epic.

As if all of the gaming stuff wasn’t enough, I got an email from Amazon promising that my Kindle should arrive this week. I’m looking forward to spending some time with it and see if this whole ebook thing is for me or not.

ME2 Lair of the Shadow Broker

I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming Mass Effect 2 DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker, ever since it was announced. Now that I’ve seen the video for it, I’m very very excited. It looks really good. I can’t wait for the 7th, although it would’ve been nice to have it for the holiday weekend.

Of course the burning question now is: what will happen with my Sheppard’s romances? He was with Liara in the first game, but now he’s with Tali.


There were two drama’s this week that I got sick of really quickly.

The first thing was an article on Elemental by PC Gamer. Pete from Dragonchasers has already covered most of my feelings about Elemental, so I’ll leave it at that.

The second was the whole buying used games is piracy debate (and I’m using that word ironically). This whole thing was pretty off target, in my opinion. When I read Tycho’s post, I put the emphasis on the intent part of the statement and went on with my day. Then I got home and found half of the blogs in my RSS were talking about it in a completely different way from the way I understood his point. Since I’m so slow to post though, Tycho has already explained himself, so that’s that.

Moving on to more interesting stuff.

I’m reading the latest Mass Effect book, Retribution, and enjoying just as much as the prior two. This has started me jonesing to be back in that world, which is good because I still have DLC to finish. I had stopped playing halfway through the Firewalker DLC, so I finished that as well as the Kasumi missions. I was a bit disappointed that there was no real dialog on the ship with Kasumi outside of the missions, she does say some things, but she’s similar to Zaeed (which makes sense, but I was hoping for more). Her loyalty mission was still pretty fun though. I’m playing Overlord now, it’s the biggest DLC so far, and has a good mix of ground and driving sections.

I hadn’t originally planned to, buy I ended up buying SC2. Not to say that I was never going to buy it, but I had planned to wait until the sequels were out. I blame nostalgia and Twitter for my failure in self-control.

The funny thing about playing Star Craft 2, is that it has made me want to go back and play Dawn of War again. Ten years (or more) ago, when I played SC1, I’d never heard of Warhammer 40k, but now playing SC2, the similarities are is striking.

So, I’ve actually been playing a lot more DoW2 than SC2. I bought the Chaos Rising expansion during the last Steam sale, but hadn’t fired it up yet. Mostly this was because while I really enjoyed the original DoW2 campaign, the multi-player wasn’t as fun for me. This left me feeling a little cold towards the game. So I was pleasantly reminded of how much of actually enjoyed the single player when I fired up the expansion campaign. I’ve also started to enjoy the multi-player, I had a good night of CPU stomping in 2v2 with Oakstout, and I’m looking forward to trying Last Stand with Jayedub.

MMO-wise, I’ve just been dabbling. Played a little Champions yo check out the new update, popped into LotRO to get my house out of hock and catchup on my maintenance fees, and the rest of my time has been spent in STO. I made Vice Admiral, got my Discovery-class refit (my favorite looking ship in the game), and made Attaché in the Diplomacy ranks.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve also been writing quite a bit, but I’m having trouble publishing. Several times, this week, I’ve finished posts and just found no inclination to publish them. Apparently with venting, it’s enough to write it that I don’t need to share it, and honestly you’re not missing much.

I am curious though. If you blog, how much of what you write do you publish?

This is making me think about the dozen plus unfinished articles in my drafts folder. I really need to do some fall cleaning and either trash them or finish them.

Decisions, Decisions

I may be switching to console mode again for a few days. Why?

  • Transformers: War for Cybertron is on it’s way from Amazon and should be here by Thursday.
  • There’s the freshly downloaded Crackdown 2 demo on my Eilte’s hard-drive begging to be played.
  • Mass Effect 2 has three DLC’s piled up that I’ve barely touched.
  • Red Dead Redemption has some new and free CO-OP maps.

There’s lots to do on the Xbox 360.

Then again, poor Cimmerian Brynulf has been trapped in Tortage for weeks longer than he should have been, and he’s only one quest away from escaping.

Bullet points provided courtesy of Anjin, Inc.

Mass Affected

This is a non-spoiler post. Please keep the comments spoiler free as well.

I finished Mass Effect 2, and it was even better than the first one!

I’m a reader. I love books. When I’m reading a good story, I find it hard to put down. There’s always a point in the last third of a book where the plot kicks into high gear and starts the downhill rush towards the denouement. I have to be careful about when I get to that point in a book because once I get there I absolutely have to finish it before I can do anything else.

Mass Effect 1 and 2 affect me the same way. I actually started the last mission in ME2 much too late at night and finally had to tear myself away around 2 am but before I actually finished the game. So all day the following day at work, I was counting the hours until I could get back on and finish.

I enjoyed Mass Effect 2 as much as I had hoped to and much more than I expected to. I blame my hesitance to start the game on my lowered expectations and on the crappy marketing leading up to release. All of the talk about a darker tone, and  the awful preview videos with Jack, had me concerned that they were taking Mass Effect more towards a Dragon Age style which I didn’t enjoy much.

Turns out my fears were totally baseless, I enjoyed all of the new characters, including Jack (which I was really surprised about). I was just as (or more actually) emotionally involved in the story. The Mass Effect games are part of a very small group of games (like KOTOR, oddly enough) where my emotional investment in the characters is just as deep as it is when I read a novel. I think it is a combination of “good enough” facial and body animation combined with excellent voice work, good writing, and just enough choice allowed in the dialogue trees. Having fully voiced dialogue for both my character and for non-player characters keeps the immersion level high. Limiting the character customization so that non-player reactions to my character’s appearance is appropriate (don’t refer to me as a boy if I look like I’m 60 years old). With immersion maintained at such a high and consistent level, it is much easier for me to develop a bond with my digital teammates.

So if you are into Science-Fiction, space opera, adventure stories, I highly recommend playing both Mass Effect games. You don’t have to play the first to enjoy the second, but it is a better experience having played both.

Mass Effect 2 is Amazing

Mass Effect 2This post is 100% spoiler safe.

I absolutely loved Mass Effect 1. Not only was it one of the main reasons why I bought an Xbox 360, but it is on a fairly short list of games that I’ve finished.

With Mass Effect 2 coming out at the same time as Star Trek Online, I decided to hold off on buying the game for a couple of weeks. I knew I would be able to play both at once, and I wanted to get enough time in the headstart and get to Commander rank and qualify to captain an Akira class.

Also, I was a bit hesitant about whether or not the sequel would live up to my expectations. Quite a bit of the recent marketing for the game was hinting at a fairly dark tone. After trying to play Dragon Age: Origins and failing to get hooked, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy a darker look at the Mass Effect universe.

After Bryn’s promotion to Commander earlier this week, I decided it was time to pickup Mass Effect 2. Plus, I didn’t want to wait too much longer to pickup and play it, because I have a feeling that it is going to be hard to avoid spoilers soon on the various blogs and podcasts, not to mention twitter.

So around 11:30 or so I unwrapped the box and popped the disc into my Elite.

I finally tore myself away from the game and staggered to bed around 5 am. At some point during the play session, I started looking at the clock on my phone and calculating how much sleep I really had to have.

All my concerns about the darker tone and disappointed expectations were forgotten in the first 60 seconds.

That’s all I’m going to say about the game right now, except you’re really missing out if you don’t finish ME1 first. I don’t think that I would be having the same emotional response to ME2, had I not already “lived” through the prior events in Sheppard’s life. I know a few people who are struggling a bit to get through it, but in my opinion the payoff is well worth it.

Then again, games are supposed to be fun. So if you didn’t like ME1, I can completely understand why you wouldn’t want to grind through it before starting ME2.