Expectations and Resolutions for 2013


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.

Mass Effect 3: No Spoilers

I’m not going to give any spoilers or talk about the ending (see here for that), I just want to address the story and game mechanic changes from ME2 to ME3 and give my general impressions.


There was one often asked question when Mass Effect 2 was released that’s been making the rounds again, “Should I play from the beginning or just start at 3?” My recommendation from then is as true if not more so:

You don’t have to play the first to enjoy the second, but it is a better experience having played both.

The game is much better if you’ve played both 1 and 2. There’s two entire games worth of emotional investment in the characters and events. This is one of the few video game series where I’ve laughed so much, and it’s the only game I can think of that’s made me tear up. And ME3 did it twice.

I have been consistently impressed and amazed with how many characters from previous game I ran into. I got to see how people I helped from both prior games had gotten on with their lives and what difference my Shepard’s actions had made in their situations. My only regret was that it’s been so long since I played the first game that I often had to be reminded (conveniently enough there was always an option via in-game dialog) who they were.

One disappointment for me was how few crew from either the previous two games were available to return to my ship for use on missions. The extended dialogs available on the ship are great, but there are also some awesome lines available during the missions. Of course all of the ones that were most important to me were there, but after the wide selection available in ME2, the mission team selection screen seemed a little empty.


For the most part, the combat in ME3 is the same as ME2. You have powers to set an ammo type, thermal clips to handle reloads, and a cover system.

You are no longer restricted to certain weapon types because of your class though. Instead all weapons have a weight value, and the more you carry the slower your powers recharge and become available again. I really liked this as it let my Soldier Shepard load up on several different types of weapons to handle sniping, general combat, and close range situations, and accept a hit to how fast powers became available again. Had I been playing an Adept or something similar, I could’ve gone the other route and just carried the lightest pistol possible and had super fast power recharges.

The weapon customization system has also a changed. You can add two upgrades to any weapon. Upgrades can be found on missions or purchased (either at the Citadel or through your armory once you’ve visited a Citadel store the first time). I especially liked that you could put a scope on any weapon and have a scope sight when you actually aimed it. For someone like myself, who’s not all that accurate with a sniper rifle, having a pistol with a scope and damage upgrade was really good as a high rate of fire rifle replacement.

The pace of combat has sped up. Enemies will use grenades to force you out of cover (and vice versa), so tactical movement become much more important.

Speaking of cover, I’ve read a lot of reviews complaining about the fact that going into and out of cover as well as jumping from one cover spot to another shares the same button as sprinting. While I got caught on that a few times myself, I didn’t find it frustrating. I imagine that has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t play shooters often. Mass Effect is a hybrid RPG/shooter (action?) game and as such doesn’t do either as well as a more specialized game does. Someone who doesn’t play a lot of shooters won’t notice the rough edges as much.


I was really not happy about the addition of multiplayer to the game. It felt to me like something that EA was pushing so they’d have a way to add more revenue streams, like selling multiplayer maps. After seeing some of the videos I was a little less leary of the idea though, and I tried to keep in mind the lessons I learned from ME2 that the PR tone of a game often has little to do with the tone of the game itself (such as the aweful Jack promo videos).

Just after the game released, there was a bit of drama related to War Assets versus Readiness where people were upset that you had to play the multiplayer in order to get the best ending. Basically BioWare designed the system so that for every fleet or unit you recruit to the effort to free Earth you get points. However the points are adjusted by a readiness percentage, with the idea being that the more combat practice units get the more effective they’ll be. This incentivises people to play the multiplayer, which a lot of people didn’t want to do.

For myself, I had planned to give the multiplayer a shot, and I’m super glad I did because it turned out to be a lot of fun. How much fun? My final playtime for the single player game was roughly 32 hours. My overall playtime is 66 hours (or at least it was when I wrote this), and I’ve been continuing to play even after beating the game when my Galactic Readiness doesn’t mean anything.

I’m enjoying it so much because it’s co-operative multiplayer not competitive. You’re on a four person team fighting through 11 waves of enemies. You can revive fallen comrades for a short time and anyone who gets killed before they can be revived automatically revives between the waves.

An interesting side-effect of playing the multiplayer is I’ve gotten a chance to play the non-soldier classes, and this has started me considering additional play throughs of ME3 to try out the other classes in the full game.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve loved ME1 and/or ME2 but haven’t picked up ME3, you should. I know there’s a lot of drama around the final minutes of the game but that’s 15 minutes out of 32 hours, and even then it’s a matter of personal taste. Lot’s of people like the ending, lot’s of people don’t, but there’s only one way to find out for yourself.

Day One DLC Effect

Found this in my Evernote drafts, pretend like I posted this a week ago as I’d intended to. Obviously I need to work harder on my resolution not to publish and not over-edit or leave stuff in drafts forever.

I’ve been catching up on my news feeds today and just ran across the drama about Mass Effect 3’s day one DLC, From Ashes. After listening to Total Biscuit and reading various posts, I’m left wondering why there wasn’t the same huge deal made out of the Warden’s Keep DLC for Dragon Age. I don’t remember blogging about it, but I remember being pretty pissed off that somehow there was DLC available for a game on the same day it launches.

I’m very curious to see how this DLC integrates into Mass Effect 3, but it can’t possibly be worse than Dragon Age: Origins where you actually had a quest prompt that then redirected you to the store.

Regardless of the realities of scheduling, where developers actually have time between completing a game and when the game ship to implement new content for digital distribution, it just feels like the design of the game was scaled back and I’m not getting the complete package for my initial money paid. Logical or not, it would be better for developers to hold DLC until after the first week or two as suggested by John Walker on RPS.

For myself, I had pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition from Amazon months ago (the day it was announce actually) so I’ll be getting this DLC gratis. I ordered the Collector’s Edition because I love the series. Were I waiting for launch day to pick up a regular copy, this DLC wouldn’t have changed my mind about just getting the basic edition.

I understand that some people feel like this content will be integral to the story and so they’ll be missing out unless they pay the additional dollars. This may be true, but frankly I doubt it will be that central to things, and once I’m done with the game I don’t really think I’ll miss whether or not there was one additional character on my crew. Honestly, I’m a tiny bit glad it will be available at launch, I think I would’ve enjoyed having Kasumi along on more missions rather than just the Stolen Memories DLC.


Uh, I just got a really awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why?

Karpyshyn hasn’t been involved with Mass Effect 3 due to his work on Star Wars: The Old Republic.

That’s from a Eurogamer article about fan outrage over the canonical errors in the most recent Mass Effect book, ironically entitled Deceived.

Now, I have the book but haven’t started it yet because I’m finishing up some other reading first, so I can’t say whether or not the book is really as bad as the Internet is claiming. I imagine and hope that it’s not and that thing’s have been a bit over blown, as is often the case. But the sinking feeling I’ve gotten isn’t because of the book, it’s because the same guy who wrote the first three books and two games, didn’t write the third game. The story has been the major driving force for me in the game, and between Karpyshyn’s absense and the change late last year to delay and include multiplayer, I’m really wondering if we’ll get a strong finish to the trilogy.

I hope so, but I’m going to start planning for disappointment. I’ll be extremely happy if I’m wrong.

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

I still don’t like the idea of having multiplayer injected into an excellent singleplayer series. It feels like an attempt by EA to broaden the game’s audience at the risk of alienating the existing fans. Of course that’s something they’ve already risked by scaling back on RPG elements from ME1 to ME2, and I still enjoyed the second game more than the first.

So I’m trying to have some faith in BioWare, even if I don’t have any in EA. Seeing this multiplayer video helps.

Looking Forward to 2012


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.


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.


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.



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).