Tag star trek online

Multi-Subject: Null-Sec, Rapture And David Cage Is Back

Cloaked Myrmidon

I'm not here, look away. Please?

Time for another one of those multi-subject posts, I believe. I’ve been quite busy working over the last few weeks, which has felt great – I haven’t had this much to do, every day, for a long time. It also means I can feel a bit more secure financially, at least until this contract is finished (which might or might not be extended). But enough of that, to the games!

EVE Online – I took the leap, accepted the invitation to a null-sec alliance and moved into 0.0, straight into a war zone. It feels good, though, since the alliance I am in covers a pretty good area, which gives me room to rat and explore in order to get my ISKies up. I’m really poor, that’s for sure. I should be ready for some actual fighting in the near future. I never thought I’d end up in this situation, but now I am. Hopefully, when I finally leave EVE, I will have some good 0.0 stories to tell.

Heavy Rain – I got my promo copy of Heavy Rain last week and me and the girlfriend have spent about five hours with it over the weekend. I won’t spoil anything, don’t worry. It’s a magnificent game so far, completely different from anything you’ve ever played before (except Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy). Sadly, David Cage either can’t control himself or someone is forcing him to add all kinds of stuff to the game that has no place there. You will see what I mean when you play it, but some details do deter from what is one of the most subtle and beautiful games in a long time. I’m a bit worried about how it will turn out as we progress, as Fahrenheit went completely nuts after a few hours and spiraled out of control.

Heavy Rain

Two things you do a lot in Heavy Rain: open fridges and visit the toilet. You never, ever wash your hands though. Dirty video game people!

Bioshock 2 – I got the special edition of Bioshock 2 sitting next to me in the sofa, mostly because I still haven’t figured out what to do with it. That thing is huge. The game is…well, it’s not the first one. I’m not 100% certain that I really like it. Multiplayer is a lot of fun though, playing as a splicer fighting other splicers in the ruins of Rapture is hilarious. Trying to grab a Little Sister from the other team while my character is cackling like a madman makes me giggle every time. I just wish they would patch it up and make it a bit smoother to use, right now it’s quite cumbersome and getting into a game is not as easy as it should be on Xbox Live.

Playing Bioshock 2 also reminded me of one of the things I hated with the first game – the story is always told behind solid glass. You are always on the outside, looking in. I never feel like a part of the process, I never get to meet the characters face to face. Now, there was a twist in the first game that made me forgive this tendency a bit, but can they really pull that off again? I truly doubt it.

This picture is, in a way, Heavy Rain related. Get back to me when you understand the (bad) joke.

Allods Online – Allods Online is entering open beta tomorrow and the characters created won’t be deleted when the game is launched. Which, for most people (including me), means that the game is actually launching tomorrow. Great! It will be fun to see how things will turn out for Allods, and I do plan to play it myself. I just can’t decide on a Gibberling or Risen? Oh, the pain.

Star Trek Online – I am still trying to find the time to play this to a greater extent, but the servers are still quite unstable. Isn’t that grace period up? Shouldn’t we expect them to be at least fairly stable by now? I’m annoyed, but I mostly got myself to blame. I am going to give it a proper go this week, but I must admit that I’m not particularly enjoying it. It’s not nearly polished enough to be a subscription game, and I wouldn’t put the triple-A stamp on it (whatever that really means, discuss).

So, that’s another multi-subject post pulled off. How about you? Planning on playing Allods? If so, what faction? And what am I missing in Star Trek Online, where’s that detail that will make me fall in love with it? I am already a bit in love with my Borg engineering officer…

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I’m In Your MMO, Reviewing Your Beta

Last time there was any talk about how to (or how not to) review MMOs was around the whole Eurogamer vs Aventurine debacle (often called “Zitrongate” after the reviewer). This was obviously a deep and traumatic event for some people, especially Darkfall fans that still can’t stop taking cheap shots at Eurogamer (despite them doing a re-review of the game). To me, though, the question has crept back into the front of my mind, as I’m currently reviewing two MMOs at the same time.

Ensign Squid

Ensign 418 of 666, codename "Squid", at your service.

As I mentioned in my last entry, this is an incredibly stupid thing to do. Last time I had two MMOs on my hands, I decided to skip one of them because the other had more priority (Aion over the first Runes of Magic expansion), this time both felt important enough to warrant my attention. It’s Global Agenda and Star Trek Online, two completely different games that both feel interesting enough to cover. I kind of wish I had stopped myself, but it’s too late now. They shall be reviewed.

So how do I go about reviewing a MMO? Thing is, I’ve had access to both of these games’ betas, Star Trek Online all the way back since closed beta and Global Agenda since some point during open. If I just had gone down the same route as a lot of other games journalists, I would have played both extensively over a long period of time, then tried them out for a bit after launch and then getting my reviews done a few days after they were released. Job done, I can sleep at night, my editors are happy, our readers are happy, everyone is happy (except perhaps the developer/publisher, if I had decided to give the game low scores).

My problem is that I refuse to review a MMO based on beta. No matter what people say, a beta is not a finished product. It might be as close as you can get, and most of the time the end of open beta will look exactly like the launch candidate, but by calling it “beta” and not “head start” or “early access”, the developers themselves are saying that the game is not done. So I won’t review it based on my experiences during beta, just like I would not review a game based on a late preview build (which are almost always like the finished product, except for perhaps a couple of bugs). I am not going to play the beta for anything except for an early look at what the game might become, just so I can get a review in a few days after launch.

Also, more often than not, the developer adds some form of patch close to launch that changes some fundamental things to the game. It might not warrant the title of “miracle patch”, but it’s often enough to make the game at least a bit better (or, in the case of Champions Online’s launch day, worse according to a lot of people). It’s kinda sad that this doesn’t happen earlier during the beta process, but the reason is probably that the developer still thinks beta is beta, while the marketing department thinks it’s free marketing. I’ve seen way too many reviews, some even printed in a magazine and passed off as a “real” review, that have even taken beta rumors as facts.

Global Agenda

This is my Global Agenda recon character. She dies a lot.

Do I blame the journalists themselves for this? No, of course not. They have deadlines, we all do, and have to work towards them. Also, there’s often pressure from the readers, who are dying to try out the game but want to know what their magazine/website of choice thinks. The only way to review a MMO and get a review out quickly is to play beta. I am just lucky enough to have editors that allow me to take the time I believe is needed, up to a certain degree of course. And despite this, I never feel fully satisfied, always having to add a disclaimer that there is no way I have seen or experienced everything and that some players will always have had more time than me and is bound to disagree. That’s why we have comment fields, as long as the discussion can be kept civil.

What I would like to see is a civil discussion about how to review MMOs. Last time it happened, the discussion was filled with so much anger at Eurogamer, or disdain towards how Aventurine handled the situation, that it was almost impossible to catch the good stuff amongst the constant din. So I’m going to try here – do you want your MMO-reviews early, or are you comfortable with waiting for them? I do realize that I’m probably talking to the wrong crowd, since most of my readers here are probably just as fanatic about MMOs as I am, but I still want to hear your thoughts about one of the hardest genres a games journalist can tackle.

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Sunday Multi-Subject Post!

Rebel Walker from Star Wars Galaxies

The Galactic War is on in Star Wars Galaxies this week. So many Jedis for people to get upset about!

Multi-subject post! I don’t always have time to blog that much, so here’s a summary of the stuff I felt I should have written about, but didn’t.

Star Trek Online - Seems like everyone on my Twitter-list are playing STO these days. I am not, since my review code has yet to materialize. Not sure if there’s been a mix-up, if they are simply not sending out review codes (I am not the only one that have yet to get one) this time around or if they want to sort out most of the problems during head-start before letting the press in. I am bouncing up and down here, there’s a new MMO on the market and I’m not playing it. I feel naked.

Mass Effect 2 – The other game on everyones’ lips right now is Mass Effect 2. While I still feel a bit uncomfortable about some of the changes they’ve made to the gameplay, I am completely in love. If  you loved the first game, you must get Mass Effect 2. If you haven’t played the first game, then you are not a real human being and should get it right now. I love seeing Commander Shepard again, it’s been too long. So long that I’m actually playing through Mass Effect 1 as well.

Dante’s Inferno – The review copy of Dante’s Inferno turned up this Friday. It’s complete and utter madness. I adore it. Gameplay is solid enough to be entertaining on its own, but DI is all about the design. And the madness never, ever let up. I’ve played for around 8 – 9 hours of it, and it manages to keep the intensity up at all times. Good going, Visceral. You guys make me proud.

Mining copper in Lord of the Rings Online

Redthir the Rune Keeper, proudly stealing hobbit copper since 2010.

Lord of the Rings Online – I’ve really started to love LotRO. My rune keeper is a lot of fun to play, I love the atmosphere and the environments. While the quests are pretty standard, and I have to go into complete leveling-denial to keep myself going, I’m really enjoying myself when playing. I have fun, which is great, and I managed to get my first mount yesterday. I’m also starting to enjoy the crafting, having emptied the Shire on copper and animals dropping light hides. Sadly, the sub ran out today and since my economy this month is as bad as it more or less can get, I don’t feel like I have the funds to re-activate a P2P-account right now. I’ll be back next month, if not sooner, when everything looks a lot more stable.

Star Wars Galaxies – The Galactic Civil War update, also known as the more exciting title “Game Update 15″, was released this week. Haven’t had much time to play around, since I’m only level 47 and can’t really do much during the attacks on various cities, but I logged in and took a bunch of screens. Guild chat had some people complaining, but there was quite a lot of action going on from what I could see. Hope it works out and gets some people back to the game. It deserves it.

The future - The future does indeed look a bit brighter right now. It seems like I’ve fixed a stable freelance cash flow over the next couple of months, hopefully longer, so I should be OK economically for the moment. We’ll see how everything works out, but I feel more positive right now than I’ve done for a long, long time.

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My Stress, My Headache, My Love For Games

A lot of people think that all game journalists do is play games and write reviews. Reviewing is a big part of it for most of us, of course, but what people forget is that playing games can take a lot of time. For example, here’s what my current gaming schedule looks like:

Dark Void – Playing this for GRTV, not really enjoying it. I still have to spend most of tomorrow playing and taking notes. Because don’t forget, when you’re reviewing games, you have to play them no matter how much dislike them. Dark Void is OK, but imagine putting hours on hours into a game you hate. No, it’s not fun.

Napoleon: Total War – Review copy dropped in today. Embargoed, so I still have time left to really dig into it.

Star Trek Online – Head start begins this weekend. Reviewing MMOs can be the worst, have to spend a lot of time with STO in the near future. Luckily, I have a very understanding editor-in-chief who understand how these things work. Still, I am working under a deadline, just like I did with Aion. I really hope the servers are ready for the amount of players that might try to rush in next week.

Global Agenda – Head start this weekend as well. Easier to review than a “real” MMO, will still need to spend a lot of time with it. Luckily, what I’ve seen from the beta, it is a lot of fun. Team Fortress 2 with XP. Still, my beating heart. A bit worried how it all will fit together after launch, though. How does the future look for GA? Will Conquer mode work out the way Hi-Rez hope?

Global Agenda

Me and Sera from Massively tear it up in Global Agenda. We almost won the round, too. Almost.

Mass Effect 2 – The game I just want to play and play and play and play. Review is filmed at GRTV this week, I’m not the main reviewer so I don’t have to finish the game before that. For which I am thankful, since I don’t want to finish it in a long time. I want to savour every delicious moment.

Game under embargo – Review of this is already in for the magazine (we had deadline this week), but we’re filming a review this week and I need to put together a longer version of the review for the site. Embargo runs out early February. Need to take a lot more screenshots as well. Thankfully, I am enjoying the game. I count my blessings.

Then we have the games I want to play on my “spare time”, like Lord of the Rings Online (more blogging about that coming up), EVE Online (thought I’d actually join the EVE Blog Banter this time, CK is dangling prices in front of our faces), Mass Effect (yes, the first one) and Darksiders (which I need to finish). Then there’s new DLC for Dragon Age: Origins and DLC upcoming for Assassin’s Creed 2… And quarter one has just started, there is a huge amount of games coming – a whole bunch of them will end up on my desk.

I’m not complaining, I love what I do. But remember to hug your friendly neighborhood game journalist next time you see him (or her, of course! Thanks, Stargrace!).

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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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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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