Looking Back at 2011


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.


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.



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.

I’m back!

It seems appropriate that my last post before taking time off was about a lack of excitement. I hadn’t actually intended to take a break but I’m glad I did. I’d hit a dead spot gaming-wise and myself having nothing to say. Not to mention, I had my family summer vacation (took the wife and little Kae to Michigan, it was amazingly fun).

Even though I took my netbook with me and had some small Steam games loaded on it as well as Minecraft and a copy of my current single player world, but I didn’t end up playing anything. I also didn’t miss playing MMOs while I was gone. Which surprised me.

Instead I was mostly unplugged for the week, and read a lot.Although you can’t tell from the massive pile my backlog of books makes. I swear it grows even faster than my backlog of games.

So now that I’m back, what’s going on?

  • There’s a demo is out for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and it looks amazing. I played a bit last night and had an absolute ball taking a chainsword to hordes of orcs. If the rest of the game plays the same it will be a ton of fun.
  • A surprise MMO came of of Gamescom this year: Wildstar. The videos I’ve seen look great and the features I’ve read about sound promising. The studio, Carbine, has a good pedigree and some experiences people, but the publisher is NCSoft and that gives me pause. NCSoft is infamous for killing games quickly and having security issues. Granted they’ve given a lot of support to ArenaNet and I haven’t heard much lately about account hacks, so maybe they’ve learned from prior mistakes. I also agree with MMOGC and would almost prefer to see the IP done as a feature-length movie instead of a game. Either way, I’m keeping my eye on it.
  • Stargrace made a very excellent point about games being a way for people to entertain themselves. I’ve actually worked on a post similar to hers talking about how lazy some players seem to be. There seems to be a growing expectation that a gamer should be able to sit back and almost be forced to have fun, kind of like watching TV, instead of having to invest some effort in the experience.
  • Big news at STO… the Perfect World acquisition is finally completed. The game had been in an odd limbo state since the release of Season 4. Because of the acquisition, Dan Stahl and the other developers had been much quieter than usual and the game had kind of stalled out content-wise with the Foundry being offline because of bugs. The floodgates have opened though. Dan posted a very interesting response to one community member talking up PW’s confidence and interest in STO, and Cryptic seems to be following up by posting a lot of job openings. Add in the fact that the Foundry is finally back to 100%, and I think the rest of the year should be pretty smooth sailing.

I’m likely forgetting some things but those are the major events I wanted to catch  up on.

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…)

Boss Battles in a RTS?

I’ve been looking forward to and following news about Dawn of War 2 for quite some time now.  I have the original game as well as all of the expansions, including that last one (Soul Storm) which was rather weak.  Every tidbit of news and video clip that I’ve seen as served only to increase my interest in playing the game, until today.

Edge is running a story about boss battles being included in DoW2.  I’ve never been a fan of boss battles, especially as they tend to be a bottle neck to game play where the difficulty spikes temporarily.  In an RTS, this seems especially artificial.

It appears that Steam is running a beta so I’ll be rewarded for buying Soulstorm, so I’ll get a chance to check out the game early.