Tag champions online

Let’s Talk Star Trek Online

Me and my crew. The guys in the back are in big trouble.

I’ve been putting off talking very much about Star Trek Online here so far. It’s not that I didn’t want to, or were under any NDA (they were kind enough to not have a NDA for the press), just that I wanted to give it more time to sink it. After all, since my initial reaction was “oh my, Champions Online in space, where’s the exit button?”, I think I made the right choice.

Because, well…Star Trek Online is not Champions Online in space.

Here’s the thing though; a lot is similar to Cryptic’s last MMO, including graphical design and UI design (at least on the ground). I really had to get over that before going forward, which luckily went fairly fast. It’s not surprising in the least, the STO and CO teams have probably shared a lot of assets between each other, working on two MMOs under the same roof.

That being said, STO – at least during closed beta – didn’t run very smooth while on the ground. Space combat felt much more fluid, while the client had a tendency to stutter and spit at me at times. My rig might not be top of the line, but it is quite capable. I had similar issues with CO for some reason. I hope it will be better closer to launch.

Space combat.

Space combat is a lot of lines and floating circles. Lovely!

So far, space combat is the most fun I’ve had in STO. While I haven’t been in any huge battles together with other players, the few space quests I’ve done have all been a lot of fun. Constantly making sure that my strongest shields are facing the enemy, while making sure I can turn quick enough to fire my torpedoes when their shields are down, makes for dynamic combat. It’s nothing like EVE Online, considering this is twitch based, and it is this I am looking forward to the most when STO launches in February.

Down on the ground, the game turns into a more traditional MMO, except for the fact that you always bring a crew with you. So far I’ve only unlocked two bridge officers, one science and one engineer, that both follow me when I beam down to a planet or into a ship. The actual team you will have is much larger though, so the game fills up the empty slots with security officers – the good old red shirts that tend to get killed all the time in the series.

Firefight.

Even in closed spaces like this, the client can cough a bit.

Beaming over to a beset spaceship to save the crew is one thing, battling pirates while trying to make your way through the tight corridors. It’s standard fare, nothing to write home to the blog about. The diplomatic mission, where I had to listen to the complaints of a couple of miners and then answering a questionnaire about what those complaints were, was more interesting – no real action, it only took a couple of minutes to complete, yet was interesting enough to warrant more investigation further into the game. I truly hope the devs have done something good with this type of mission.

One thing we know Cryptic are really good at, after City of Heroes and Champions Online, is customization. STO is not an exception. You can customize your ship in a wide variety of ways, you can spend a lot of time tweaking your own appearance (and create your own race, of course) and you can do the same to your bridge officers. I’m really looking forward to creating my own, personalised team and take them out on adventures across the galaxy.

There’s a lot of things I haven’t had time to dig deeper into, like the leveling system where you get to spend points in a whole bunch of different skills (both for yourself and for your crew). I haven’t bought a new ship or fitted it with very exciting equipment either. There will be enough time for that at a later point.

Earth.

Space, compared to on the ground, runs smoothly while looking amazing.

So, where do I stand on the subject of STO? I will play it at launch, that much I know. It’s more fun than I thought it would be, especially the space combat. But when I think about it more, I am not sure I see it as a MMO right now, I see it more like a single player game where I can create my own bridge crew and customize my ship. There’s a danger in that, absolutely. Hopefully, that part will emerge when the game is finally released.

There was a major patch to the beta client a few days ago, I haven’t had time to check it out, but when I left the game it didn’t feel ready for release. The clunkyness of the client needs to go. It might already have been fixed, perhaps that last patch was some kind of “miracle patch”, perhaps Cryptic have a lot of updates to the client in the pipeline. But February still feels too soon.

We shall see what happens. I am glad we are finally getting a Star Trek Online. I was not, to say the least, a fan of Champions Online, but I hope that Cryptic will redeem themselves in my eyes with STO. They have some good stuff in there.

No, make that great stuff.

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Obligatory End Of 2009 Post

Blow up Stormwind! Blow it up!

Stargrace and Pete both beat me to it (and so did probably, you know, every other blogger on the planet), but every self-respecting (and self-loathing) blog out there needs some form of summary post about what the past year has meant to the blogger personally. It just has to be done and I don’t want to be left out of the great nostalgia of 2009. So here goes.

I’m pretty impressed by Pete being able to look back and do a month-to-month analysis of what he’s been playing since, well, I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday. Did I have dinner yesterday? See. Clueless.

What I can say, looking back at the year, is that it’s been a fairly weak year for new MMOs. We had a bunch, some of them more fun than others, but except for the notable exception of Fallen Earth (which I did give the number 1 spot on my MMO of the Year list on GRTV), they were all kinda meh. Sure, we also had Free Realms, which was nice and all, but the rest failed to deliver.

Aion looked good and played good and followed the same formula as all other games before it and added a ridiculous grind and I’m getting bored from just writing about it. I hope NCsoft improves on it, though – every time I see a piece of art from the game I get this stab in the heart. I loved the world in Aion, I adored the design and the client and gameplay was solid. But it was far from enough and the complete lack of innovation got me in the end (when the servers finally let me in).

I’d rather not talk about Champions Online, but I will mention it since it was one of the big releases this year. I really can’t stand CO, at all. I’ve tried, over and over again, and I’m so glad that I didn’t have to review it because that would mean I would have had to play it more. I hated the graphics, the art design, the gameplay, the concept…no, CO was not for me. There is something with that game that just ticks me off and I can’t put my finger on why. I actually have to bite that finger every time someone mentions the game, since that’s how hard it is for me to not make a snide remark about it.

Which is not nice of me and I truly don’t want to be this way. It’s not professional. I think I need help to get over it. Like Star Trek Online, which I am currently playing. I’ll get back to it if I get around to writing a 2010-post, but here’s my quick review: I will be playing STO when it launches. Enough about that.

Fallen Earth did save 2009 from being a complete loss, with a wonderful new setting (at least for MMOs), cool crafting and a lot of good work being done on it post-launch by Icarus Studios. I’m looking forward to getting back into it sooner or later, but if you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend searching the Internet for a trial key (there might be a few left out there). Or just go buy it already.

No, 2009 was all about the old MMOs, at the end of the day. It was the year I finally quit World of Warcraft for more than a few months (I’ve been clean for almost a year now!). It was the year when I noticed that Star Wars Galaxies is a cool MMO and that the hate mongers should just STFU already. It was the year when I started to migrate over to American servers since my friends are all playing WoW.

It was also the year when I finally started this gorram blog and kept it running. That feels kinda neat.

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Champions Store gets retconned

Somewhere, at some point, someone decided that microtransactions and subscription based game could actually go hand in hand. Champions Online is one of the games that have adopted this philosophy, and one of the justifications that people tend to bring up is that World of Warcraft has been doing something similar for a long time. Blizzard began with server transfers, but these days they offer both complete makeovers and even a faction change for your current characters.

Want to look like this? It costs about $3.12.

Want to look like this? It costs about $3.12.

There is a pretty major difference between World of Warcraft and Champions Online, though. Server transfers, faction changes or makeovers are not really needed in a game that only has one shard, one faction and that lets you change your characters whole appearance more or less at will. The major difference is that Champions Online offers the kind of stuff you are used to see in the item shops of free to play games, like Maple Story or Runes of Magic – new costumes, more character slots (which is also something you can buy extra in for example Guild Wars), emblems and action figures (CO’s version of vanity pets).

When I saw the store the first time, I raised an eyebrow since I didn’t think an item shop had a place in a subscription based game. Extra services, fine. Extra items, no. But the same thing can be said for SOE’s item shops in Vanguard or EverQuest II, and since Champions didn’t include things like XP-potions, I didn’t mind much. I would never pay more for costumes in CO (unless it was really, really, really cool – luckily I think CO’s character design is an atrocity towards good taste, so I doubt that would ever be an issue), and I’m fine with few character slots. The stuff in the Champions store had nothing to do with gameplay, so screw it.

Until now, when the store is suddenly offering full retcons for your characters. In more general MMO-terms, it’s a full respecc for your character. That you can buy, for real money, since a full retcon is incredibly expensive using the regular in-game currency.

Read more

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Champions on the line

See what I did there? I’m very proud of myself.

I guess I am becoming increasingly grumpy, but I am really trying to enjoy my time with Champions Online and failing. Everyone else seem to enjoy it, to a degree, but the more I play it the more I realise that I am not having fun. My character looks really cool, wearing a short skirt, a bowler hat and touting two large guns, and I guess that the hover board she’s flying around on is kinda neat, but…it’s not enough. The more I play, the worse it gets.

Let’s get the regular disclaimer out of the way – I am not far into Champions Online. I just dinged level 10, I’m stuck in the dull wilderness of Canada, and still have a long way to go before I can start exploring the world proper and craft my own Nemesis. This is a MMO, I have barely scratched the surface. But the fact remains that I have no real incentive to keep playing. I know I’ll get to Millennium City sooner or later, but do I really want to? If I’m not enjoying the game now, what is there to say that I will in a few levels time?

So, what’s my problem? First of all, the game feels slow. Not frame-rate dropping slow, just slow paced. I am sure the action gets better when you got more powers to play around with and the enemies become trickier, but so far combat is dull. Travelling is also slow and doesn’t flow the way I was hoping for and the graphics leave a lot to wish for even on near-maximum settings. Questing is boring as well, the same old MMO quest grind that we’ve seen thousands of times before – innovation is not Champs Online’s strongest point. Perhaps it’s my power set and chosen travel power that are not fun enough, but if I want to try something completely different I’ll either have to retcon (i.e respecc) my character completely, which I can’t afford, or play through the tutorial area again, which I don’t ever want to do again. Also, I like guns.

I did enjoy PvP for a bit, until I noticed how certain power sets and travel powers made it more or less unplayable for my chosen type of hero. Munitions against crowd control-heavy characters that use teleports? Boom, splat, gone. I know Munitions do have a CC-power, which I’ll try to pick up and see if I can even the odds a bit. I did consider rerolling just for the PvP, but since you don’t get experience points for PvPing (oh, how I miss that from WAR in every game I play these days) it would still force me to play through regular PvE. And creating a new character only for teleports and CC, knowing that the PvP-side of the game probably will fare victim to the usual nerf-fest that Blizzard perfected in the Arena, seems utterly pointless. I will just try to enjoy the PvP as much as I can without that edge, comforted by the thought that no particular power set will stay on top forever.

Yet, I am not sure if I will make it that far. I try to log in and play for longer periods of time, but I keep finding myself bored and log out after a few missions. There’s nothing in the lore that interests me, the world isn’t exciting and the crafting feels like a complete waste of time (that’s what you get after playing too much Vanguard, Ryzom or Everquest II – you get spoiled by interesting crafting systems).

Maybe it’s the setting that puts me off? Perhaps super heroes are not cool enough, or not the type of characters that I want to play when I play MMOs. Perhaps, since no matter how cool my char’s bowler hat is, I don’t feel connected to her at all. With both Fallen Earth and Aion releasing this month (Fallen Earth on my birthday, no less – nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Icarus Studios), I am not sure for how long Champions Online will be able to keep up my already low interest.

I will keep playing, perhaps things will change. I just need to get out of Canada, since that zone is starting to drive me crazy.

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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