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.

Second Anniversary!

Today’s the big day! I now have two years of blogging under my keyboard. That’s 158 (counting this one) posts written with 800 comments (likely half of them mine).

Last year I had one goal: post more. I barely managed 50 posts during my first year, so for my second year what I really wanted to do was double that and write 100 posts. I’m pretty happy that I managed that and a few more, I started pretty strong in January with 15 and did pretty well most months.

Even better than meeting my posting goal, has been the new connections I’ve with readers and other bloggers this year. I’ve had some good discussions in blog comments, on Twitter, and in game chats. I have to say that the new friends I’ve made has been the best thing to come out of blogging for me.

Since, I mentioned stats last year I figured I should again. I hadn’t been paying much attention to them this year and there were some surprises to me. Hopefully none of these come off as bragging. I’m know that there are other blogs get a lot more traffic, but for someone like me who is sporadically productive (if improving), I feel pretty good about them.

  • Traffic jumped right at the start: 537 in December to 1,449 in January (I imagine because I was fairly regular about posting for a change)
  • Monthly hits for the year haven’t gone below 1,000 (except for February at 943)
  • June was the biggest month ever with 2,005 hits (due to the LotRO free to play announcement)
  • Three most popular posts (both this year and all time): LotRO F2P?!? at 1,246, Red Dead Redemption at 1,246, and LotRO, Cosmetic Gear, and the Wardrobe at 366.
  • The total hits for 2009 were 2,504. Year-to-date for 2010 is 12,284 (um what?).

I can’t think of anything else to add at the moment (and the twin siren calls of Civ5 and Minecraft are getting a bit too enticing), so here’s to two years passed and more to come.

Thanks for reading.

Whoops! It’s Friday?

So, um yeah, I guess it’s Friday already. I had big plans for an AoC post and a few other things this week. Apparently this week had other plans for me. So instead, I present you with the following summary, excuses, and cuteness.

My Age of Conan retry was going very well up until Wednesday, that’s when UPS delivered my copy of Red Dead Redemption. I’d been waiting to post my thoughts until I’d escaped from Tortage, but, as a summary, my ranger Brynulf has reached level 19 and is near the end of his destiny quest.

My Xbox hasn’t gotten much use since I finished Mass Effect 2, but Red Dead Redemption has had me hooked the last few nights. This game was completely not on my radar. Scott from Pumping Irony asked my via Raptr a few days ago if I was getting it, so I took a look. Hmmm, a Rock Star open world shooter like GTA 4? Probably not something I’ll enjoy, I played the last GTA game for less than a day. I decided to check out a couple of game play videos anyway, and based on what I saw, I ordered it. So far, no regrets. Well except for a lack of sleep.

Besides RDR, I’ve had some real life stuff distracting me from writing. On Wednesday, my dad had his 62 birthday, and my sister also had her second child, both on the same day. Getting your third grandson, that’s a nice birthday present. Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary, and tonight we have a babysitter and dinner plans.

So, that’s that. I do have several drafts waiting for attention, so week should be a busy one.

100!

This is my 100th post for the blog. While not a huge number compared to some, it is significant to me. First, because it’s 100, that’s just a big round number. Second, I did fifty posts during the first twelve months I had this blog and one of my goals for 2010 was to hit 150. I figured if I could hit 100 by July, I would be doing good, and it’s March. That’s much faster than I expected, and I’m wondering now if I should up my goal to 200 instead.

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. (more…)

Looking Back at 2009

I think 2009 was a good year for games, even MMOs. Sure WoW is still on top, Warhammer continues to struggle, there’s not been any revolutionizing innovation in the MMO genre, but I don’t really care about any of that. All of the games I started the year playing (EVE and LoTRO) I still enjoy, and I found a new game (Champions) that I like an expect to be playing through the whole of 2010. (more…)

MMO Triage

Last month I talked about the four MMO’s I was trying (Aion, Fallen Earth, Champions Online) or re-trying (Age of Conan).  Of the four, I’m only planning to continue playing Champions Online. Along with LoTRO and Eve, this leaves me with two lifetime and one monthly subscription (actually two 6-month subs since I have two accounts on Eve).

Age of Conan

I let Age of Conan expire last week, and this retry marks the least amount of progress I’ve ever made in the game.  Generally when I retry the game I create a new character and get about halfway through Tortage.  This time around, I barely got into Tortage.  I may go back if something huge changes with the game, but I’m not sure anything would make much of a difference.  The graphics are good and the combat is fun, but I just don’t have any interest in the world or the story.

Aion

I cancelled my Aion subscription yesterday.  Aion is still playable until the 29th, but I doubt I’ll spend any more time on it.  Every time I’ve sat down at my PC recently to play a game, I’ve found myself launching Champions Online instead.

I think the shine on Aion rubbed off during beta when I hit the mid-teens.  I was especially disappointed to find that flight was not intended for exploration or travel.  I’m aware of the lore reasons, but Aion is not based on a movie or book series, the lore is there to support the gameplay not vice versa.  The queues and faction locks just served to keep me from trying to rekindle my interest during the initial launch.  Even still, I might have spent more time with the game except that most of the people I know playing were scattered across different servers, and I found it difficult to decide where to roll.  One thing I know I didn’t want to do was reroll and go through the 1-10 experience multiple times.

Fallen Earth

Of the games I’m cutting, Fallen Earth was the most fun for me, and I seriously considered staying subscribed just to play off and on and support the developer.  In the end, I decided to let the subscription lapse because Fallen Earth and Eve both fulfill the same need for me and I’m much more invested in Eve.  I also prefer the slower pace of combat in Eve.

Of all of the games I’m dropping this month, Fallen Earth is the only one that I see myself coming back to at a later date.

Champions Online

Most of my playtime the last few weeks have been spent in Champions.  There are definitely some roughs edges in this game just like there are in Fallen Earth, but nothing that interferes with my fun, and having fun is my primary criteria for what I play.  I’m not planning to post a review of the game as its already been thoroughly discussed on other blogs.  If you want some links, the best overview is Syp’s Bio Break posts about the positives and negatives of the game.  I’d also recommend checking out A Ding WorldBullet Points, and NecroRogIcon for other bloggers who are playing the game.

First Anniversary!

Today marks the one year anniversary of the site.  It all started with rants about DRM and the RIAA.  Even though I’m not in Syp’s league for productivity, I have been happy that I’ve stayed with the site.  I’m at 50 articles published (including this one) and yes I did have to scramble a bit this week to hit that number.

When I started out last October I had 24 hits for the month.  January saw my first real jump with 62 hits and the blog stayed in that neighborhood until April when it jumped to 92.  Traffic jumped again in May to 132 and peaked in August at 142 with September on track for the 140+ range as well.  So right now I’m averaging 4-5 hits per day.  Not hugely popular, but not bad considering my sporadic posting rate.

So huge thanks to those of you who stop by regularly to see if I’ve gotten off my lazy butt and written anything new, and an extra huge thanks to those who’ve left comments.  While I don’t write here for anyone but myself, it’s always nice to get feedback and encouragement.

My goals for the blog for the next year are to post more regularly and more often.  This anniversary kind of snuck up on me and I did have to push a bit to hit the 50 post number.  So for this next blog year, I’m planning to double my output and hit the 150 post mark by this time next year.  So now that its on the internet, maybe I’ll have more motivation to make it happen.

Too Many Games

I’m having a bit of a self-control problem lately with all of the games releasing.

First I bought a lifetime subscription to Champions Online, partially on the strength of the beta play that I experiences and partially on my satisfaction with the LoTRO lifetime subscription.  Still it is a bit of a gamble, but I wasted more than $200 on my last trip to Vegas so I’m sure I’ll get over it if Champions turns out to be a disappointment.  I also had pre-ordered Aion in a moment of weakness from Steam a while back and I recently bought Fallen Earth on the strength of some Twitter comments from Syp, Werit, and Pete.  Oh yeah, and I resubscribed to Age of Conan for a month.

So that was just the MMOs.  I bought Arkham Asylum a little while back and I’m still working on finishing that (about 60% done I believe).  I also splurged on Steam and bought Osmos and Majesty 2.  Osmos was a great demo and a fun little game (think the 1 phase of Spore), and Majesty 2 is a nice little strategy/simulation game that I hadn’t given any thought to but bought on a recommendation from Jeff Green.

Hmmm.  Maybe I should get off Twitter, it seems to be costing me quite a bit of money.

Of all of these games, I’ve primarily been playing Champions Online.  You can find me @BlueKae in the game.  I’m really enjoying this game and I’m in the progress of re-making my CoH heroes.

My resub month to Conan is both to see if I can play long enough to get out of Tortage, which I’ve never done, and to check out the game on my brand new machine.  So far I’ve played less than an hour.

I played Fallen Earth a bit today, about two hours.  I’m not sure that one’s a keeper, since the graphics are a bit rough and I’m pretty shallow in that regard, but I’m going to give it the full 30 day try.  My one problem so far is I bought it from Steam but the Steam client won’t launch it.  Fortunately I can go down the the updater buried in the Steam folders and launch it manually, but I’m not really happy with that workaround.

LoTRO and Eve are both in a holding pattern for me right now.  In LoTRO I’ve logged in once or twice you see what it looks like in DirectX10 on my new machine and to make sure my house is paid up.  In Eve, I’m playing the log in, update training queue, log out game.  I’m sure my mood will change eventually and I’ll get back into both games, the trick is not to stress out about it and try to force myself to play.  After all this is gaming, not work.

Of the six (holy crap six?) MMOs that I have active subscriptions on (2 monthly, 2 lifetime, 2 initial free months, wow yeah that’s six), Aion is the only one I’m not playing.  See I’m 35 years old with a wife, a kid, and a job, so my evening gaming time is very precious to me and I don’t want to spend it in a 2-10 hour queue.  I’m in no rush though, I’m sure Aion with even out eventually and I’ll play when it does, unless it takes longer than my 30 day free period.  If it takes more than the first month for the servers and queues to get to a sane level, I’m not sure if or when I’ll resubscribe.

Beyond the multitude of MMOs that I’m dabbling with, I’ve played a bit more Arkham Asylum and it just keeps getting better.  The primary worry I had with that game was hitting a wall at some boss battle and giving up on the game.  So far all of the boss encounters have been pretty decent, although Killer Croc was a bit of a let down until the very end.  Actually the only time I’ve gotten stuck was one of the predator rooms where there were 6(?) armed henchmen and all of the gargoyles were booby trapped, so I had to get used to playing a bit differently.

So, if I can just get another 10 hours added to the day, I’ll have time to play everything I want to.

Back Again

Hey there!  I’ve been on an unplanned hiatus for the last two months.  A combination of super busy work days, taking care of my (now 9 month old) son, and severe case of gaming apathy have all conspired to limit my gaming activities.  I’ve continued to maintaining my Eve training schedule (and done a little mining) and played some Xbox and single player stuff, but I’ve not been playing MMOs.  I’ve had tried a few times to get back into LoTRO, War, CoH, and WoW but nothing has really stuck.

But the blogacation (sorry) is now over.  Couple of things I’m excited about my first trip to GenCon on Saturday and joining Shawn Shuster and other Massively readers in the latest Choose My Adventure in LoTRO.

More to come…