Expectations and Resolutions for 2013

Writing

In January 2012, I’d resolved to post directly to the blog more and edit less. I had an especially bad habit of leaving posts to languish in my drafts folder for months and then deleting them because they weren’t topical anymore. While I did get better about editing, I didn’t post straight to the blog much at all. So I’m renewing the same resolution to be more brave about my posting in the coming year. At least that’s going to be my excuse for any typos people point out.

Upcoming Games

There are a few MMOs that I’m anticipating:

  • City of Steam
  • Defiance
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Neverwinter

City of Steam is my novelty game. It’s a steampunk setting with a F2P model using a browser client. I missed a few chances to play in the closed beta, so I can’t say anything about how it plays. I’m a little concerned that they’re relying on just the setting to differentiate the game from other MMOs instead of trying to refine and improve the genre standard mechanics, but that’s based on superficial research on my part.

I’m pulling for Defiance partly because it’s by Trion. I’ve continued to be a fan of how Trion’s developed Rift even after I wasn’t actively subscribing to it (although I did resubscribe when the Storm Legion expansion was announced), and I’d like to see them continue to succeed. The other reason I’m hoping it does well is there’s a real dearth of science-fiction MMOs and I’m hoping this one doesn’t suffer the same fate as Tabula Rasa. I really don’t think that’s likely, considering how invested both Trion and SyFy are in the game and tie-in television series.

Elder Scrolls Online is my dark horse game. I was originally pretty pessimistic about the game’s chances, but my opinion has since become more optimistic based on developer interviews. Of course talk is cheap so who knows if ESO will fly or fall, but I’m hoping that it does well just so I can explore Tamriel more widely than I’ve been able to do in Skyrim.

Of all of the upcoming MMOs, Neverwinter is the only one that I’m genuinely excited for. Prior to going to GenCon this summer, this game was in the I’ll-play-it-when-it-comes-out category but I was really impressed with out beautiful the demo was. The environments were detailed and interesting, and the animations were fluid. The gameplay itself was very action oriented, and reminded me slightly of Torchlight and Gauntlet. Add all that to a supercharged version of the Foundry software that’s currently in Star Trek Online, and I’m not only excited to play the game Cryptic is making but also see what kinds of modules players build. There’ve been some really excellent missions done in STO and I hope that Neverwinter will inspire the same amount of creativity in it’s players.

Backlog

Outside of those few new games, this year is going to be all about the backlog. Anyone want to take bets on how long that lasts?

MMOs

Champions Online has been making a lot of changes and I really want to roll up a brand new hero to see what’s changed with the game since 2011. I know there’s lots of new powers and custom pieces, plus they recently added vehicles, and have just started hinting a some big new content releases.

Lord of the Rings Online has the whole Riders of Rohan expansion that I’ve not touched yet, plus I still have about a third of the Rise of Isengard expansion to finish.

Rift has had a huge amount of new content added, I just need to sit down and force myself to rebuild all of the roles that’ve been reset on my Mage.

Single-player

Even though I completed Dishonored, I was working on replaying a few missions with full stealth/zero kills. I’d also still like to do a second playthrough as more of an assassin than a ghost, but I’m going to bump that down to the bottom of my list for the year.

I’d only gotten through about a third of A Game of Dwarves before I was distracted by some other game.

I haven’t played that last three DLCs for Mass Effect 3.

I never got back to Skyrim last year like I intended, not to mention there’s been one major DLC released for the PC with another one announced.

I’ve barely gotten into Torchlight 2.

I loved the demo for XCOM enough to preorder the game, but I haven’t launched it since it released. I played Dishonored first since I wanted to make sure I finished that, and got distracted before I could even start XCOM.

Plus from my Steam there’s Orcs Must Die 1 & 2, Legend of Grimrock, Anno 2070, SPAZ, and the Back to the Future series all of which barely makes a dent. I also have a few Kickstarter backed games that are in or nearing the beta stages that I want to contribute playtime to like Castle Story, Timber and Stone, and the Banner Saga multiplayer.

Other Hobbies and My 2013 Resolution

Outside of games, I also have some more Star Trek ship models to assemble and paint, plus my long suffering Nanowrimo novel from 2010 that I still want to finish.

Having so little free time with so many demands is the core of what I want to work on this year. I’ve been in the habit of surfing along with my moods and interests and just spending time on games and projects as my id dictated. While there’s not really anything bad about going with the flow like that, it hasn’t been good for finishing projects. So this year I’m actually making lists of games and other projects I want to finish and sorting them in the order I want to tackle them with the intention of focusing on one at a time. I’ve already had some success at that, since that’s basically how I’ve finished all three Mass Effect games, Red Dead Redemption, and Dishonored. My problems nearly always stem from trying to multi-task between games and other hobbies.

Wish me luck.

2012

What a year! In the past I’ve done an annual review of what I played and how well my expectations from January matched up with reality in December, and I’ve been working on exactly that for this year but feels too long and hasn’t been very interesting to write so I can imagine how much fun it would be to read. None. Instead, I wanted to cover some of the highs and lows for the year on the blog.

Not Games

For my non-gaming life, the birth of my second son, Thing Two, was definitely the high point of the year, more specifically the fact that he’s a good sleeper was regularly sleeping three to four hours a night from the second night he came home. Thing One didn’t sleep like that until he could roll over which he didn’t do until he was nine months old. That was a long nine months for both my wife and I and I’m so grateful that we got an easier baby for the second time through the newborn experience.

The biggest non-game disappointment to me for the year has been my blog. I’ve hit dry patches before but this year was the first time that I had a lull where I actually considered quitting  I got to December and realized I hadn’t posted in two months and had stopped reading probably three quarters of the MMO blogs in my RSS. Reading some year ends posts though has motivated me to work on my own, which has re-energized me to keep up with the blog for another year.

New Games

My favorite new games for the year in no particular order were:

  • Mass Effect 3
  • Dishonored
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Knights of Pen and Paper
  • A Game of Dwarves

Mass Effect 3 was surprisingly controversial for it’s ending, even though I liked it personally I seem to be in the minority. Instead I expected the multiplayer to be the thing everyone hated, yet I’m still spending time in it. I absolutely never expected to be playing ME3 multiplayer once I’d finished the story let alone months later.

Dishonored was a fun combination of branching-linear story with sandbox stealth and combat. I’d never played any of the Thief or Hitman games, so this was really my first exposure to the stealth genre. I really enjoyed the steam-punk style world as well as the the story, characters, and voice acting. The combat and stealth mechanics were tons of fun too, and I’m hoping to see a sequel or some more weighty DLC announced this year.

Guild Wars 2 turned out to be more fun than I hoped. The original Guild Wars never enticed me to explore in the world, not because of a lack of jumping but because of all of the invisible walls in the game. GW2 enthusiastically promotes exploring with all of the hidden vistas and puzzles. I generally dislike platformers, yet I’ve spend several hours on jumping puzzles in GW2.

Knights of Pen and Paper is one of the first mobile games I’ve spent a lot of time playing on my phone. In fact this year has seen a bit of an explosion in good games. In 2011 I maybe had five or six games on my phone that I would kill some time on occasionally, wheres in 2012 I had more than twenty games installed on my phone and fix or six I was spending a few hours a week on.

A Game of Dwarves didn’t get reviewed well on the few critic sites I read, but I’ve still enjoyed it a lot. The quests and dialog are full of puns and twists on fantasy tropes. The game mechanics are a fun combination of Minecraft and Dunegon Keeper. It’s not an open sandbox like Minecraft but it does scratch some of the same itches in having your dwarves explore a level and build a base.

Old Games

I had originally figured on going back and finishing a lot of the games I’d started in 2011 but gotten distracted from, Skyrim being the chief one on the list. That was when I expected to be on an enforced MMO fast. So since I was mostly able to spend my nights how I wanted, I ended up playing whatever my current obsession was. Initially that was SWTOR, then it was STO, then GW2, then STO again. Rift, Champions, and LotRO spent all year on my to-play list but I never found the motivation to spend more than an hour or two in any of them. Of everything I’ve played this year that was released pre-2012, STO’s been my favorite.

Star Trek Online had a really rough 2011. The acquisition by Perfect World, F2P transition, lots and lots and lots of drama, and nearly no content. Really things could only get better in 2012, and happily I think they did. Dan Stahl returned as the Executive Producer, Cryptic’s STO team doubled in size, and they had two very well received Season releases. It wasn’t a perfect year of course, I’d like to have seen more than one new Featured Episode series for instance, and there was still quite a bit of drama, but it was definitely not the year of hell that 2011 was.

Random things.

Couple of things I wanted to mention.

Thing One

Had you told me last year that I would still be putting hours into Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer game, I would have said you were crazy. Yet that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, even though I’m not typically a fan of shooters.

Why? Two reasons that I’ve come up with. First, I really love the ME universe and the multiplayer is a way to stay engaged with it. Second, I’ve come to realize it isn’t actually the shooters that I dislike, it’s their competitiveness. ME3’s is cooperative against bots. After hundreds of matches, I’ve yet to run across any of the type A-hole personalities that I associate (rightly or not) with games like Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, or Counter Strike.

Thing Two

Guild Wars 2 has its head start this weekend. I’m excited to play but it’s a low-key kind of excitement. I’m looking forward to playing but if ArenaNet came out tomorrow and said they were delaying headstart for a week or a month, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest.

I haven’t been thinking about the game much, or keeping the patcher updated, or coming up with the character names I want to use. Yet I am excited enough that I’m planning to stay up late and to try to get into the headstart as early as possible.

Possibly my excitement has been blunted by getting to play in a few beta weekends (the stress tests always happen when I’m working). I’ve already had the chance to explore the starting areas and try out different races and classes. I’ve already settled on an Asura Elementalist as my main (at least initially) and the guild I’m planning to join has already chosen a server.

Thing Three

LotRO delayed its expansion until October. I’ve seen a lot of surprised comments about that. I’ve also seen a few comments believing that it was done to fix bugs and improve the game a bit more before release. I’m sure Turbine will use the extra time to improve the game, but I don’t think that was the reason for the delay. September is already super crowded and since Blizzard has already set their expansion date in an effort to compete with ArenaNet, it would be stupid of Turbine not to push the release a bit and give themselves more space.

Mass Effect 3 Leviathan

Bioware announced the first single-player DLC for Mass Effect 3 yesterday, called Leviathan. At 800 Microsoft points it adds a new adventure to Shepard’s pre-Earth assault story.

I’m sure a lot of people will skip this since they already know how things end, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll take any chance to spend more time in the Mass Effect universe, even better if it’s with Shepard and his team who I’ve gotten to know so well over the last five years.