Faces of the Ranger

A Ranger's Chronicle in the world of MMORPGs

Posted 7/29/2010 8:02 AM by coreth. 1618 reads. Share:

  Season Two hit this week in Star Trek Online, and we've got a few bumps and bruises in the process.

  Lag has been an ugly issue, but not insurmountable.  Devs indicate they're working on that, and hopefully it will be better by the end of the week.

  The diplomatic missions that are a part of the update are exactly what the game needed; the only problem is that there aren't nearly enough of them.  That's understandable-after all, no patch is going to put in the same amount of episodic content that the initial release put out, short of an actual expansion.  These things are incremental.  But if the devs commit to making more of this style of mission-which involves problem solving skills, yes (unless you go on the net and look up what someone else did to solve it)-the game will definitely have more of a Trek-like feel.  I can't speak toward the first contact missions as of yet, as I have a ways to go before I can start getting those.  The comments I've heard about it are mostly positive, except for the "Trek Trivia" questions involved, which I feel is just...silly.  Fortunately, the Memory Alpha wiki is a resource I would expect would get past most of those, but still, I'd much prefer them to stick to using questions that mess with in-game lore more than external sources.  (Although if they were to include this stuff on the Library Computer in-game...I could see that working all right.)

  The Klingon episodes have a number of significant bugs.  I'm afraid I can't give personal experience on Live, but I certainly ran into them in the test environment, and forum comments indicate that this is still the case after the publish.  Given the usual attitude of the primary-Klingon players, I would hope the devs jump on this very, very quickly.  I think that most of them on the forums are drama queens, but if they're going to get the content, they deserve to get it as solidly as the Feds-which is to say, if you see it bugged on the test server, fix it FIRST.

  Ship interiors are one of those things that have mixed opinions about.  The downside is, aside from trophy displays, there really isn't much point to them.  But they look incredible; I know that some of the assets were pre-existing in other parts of the game, but you know what?  I don't really care.  They look good, both on the Klingon and the Federation side of things.  What is needed now is functionality, and I am dead certain we'll be seeing that at some point, sooner rather than later. What is the point of a research lab if there isn't anything to research there?  And doesn't the Sickbay just give you a really good reason to deal with those injuries from the difficulty system?  And by having these maps be more or less generic-while they might drive the folks who desire total customization crazy-it might enable the devs to include them in actual episodic content.  Who wouldn't want to fight off attacking Klingons on your very bridge, or in your engineering section?  Who wouldn't want to reap honor and glory by repelling alien boarders in your mess hall on a Klingon vessel?  A good portion of Star Trek took place on board the ships-if this design makes it possible to replicate in this game, I'm 100 percent behind it.

  There's other stuff I haven't gotten to; there's six new levels of advancement, to Vice Admiral 1; at that rank, there's new "retrofit" ships available, although I'm unlikely to use them on my main (will probably consider for one or two of my alts, though, if they get that far).  New episodes to help get the player's characters to that rank, and new ones at that rank which also include (not coincidentally) fleet actions and repeatable missions.  Plus the Klingons got new costume parts to play with for some of their assorted species, plus there's new Mk XI equipment to start stuffing into those VA1 level ships.  There was also the nice touch of allowing a Fleet Patch to be created in-game; I was able to get a reasonable version of the one we designed on the Corps of Discovery's site, which I immediately applied to my character's uniform (and those of his bridge crew) and to my ship.

  There's a lot to like in this Season, and while there's the usual chiming of complaints to be found, nothing really makes me feel that "oh, the devs should've done X and Y instead".  What it DOES make me feel is, "I want more!"

  And all indications are:  more will be coming.


Posted 7/9/2010 9:28 AM by coreth. 1521 reads. Share:

  Just wanted to mention that the RealID on Forums issue has died a quiet death.


  I'm sure they'll redo the forums, and if they're smart, they'll associate it with an account that you post on rather than a character you post on (similar to, oh, most other gaming forums), and I have no issue with that.

  The storm grew to close to 25k posts in their primary thread on the American forums (I didn't count the Europe forums, as I usually don't look at those-but they likely added a hefty chunk themselves), and caught the attention of not just the MMORPG media, but national and international media like CNN, the Washington Post, and BBC.  And I haven't even looked at threads that sprouted on the Battlenet forums or the other Blizzard games' forums.  There was a LOT of interest in here, and it demonstrates just how many people are a part of the World of Warcraft phenomenon-and the unity shown by the majority of those posters in saying "no" to this was truly amazing to read.

  Well, the customers spoke, and Blizzard listened.  Maybe they remembered another storm of protests on a major over-arcing change a little under five years ago.  If so, then the damage done to the SWG community may not have been totally in vain after all.

Posted 7/7/2010 7:55 AM by coreth. 1567 reads. Share:

  Sometimes, it's funny how things work out.  I was figuring this week on putting down thoughts on the Season 2 stuff that was to hit the test server for STO, but two things have knocked that one out of the running.  First, the test build hasn't been able to get onto the server; it happens.  This is why there's a test server in the first place.  The second reason is that a bigger juggernaut came along to steamroll it.

  I'm talking about the announcement yesterday by Blizzard concerning their forums.

  Some backstory here.  I haven't played WoW in a long time.  I was never a big poster on their forums; I think I posted maybe twice back in '06.  Those posts no longer exist, probably because of whatever forum maintenance they do over there.  So I have no stake in the announcement.

  Not long ago, as I understand it, Blizzard began hyping their "Real-ID" tech, which basically was a friends list kind of thing-except with your real name.  So for example, instead of seeing "Coreth" on your list, you might see "John Doe".  This was a concern (and remained so up to the present day...well, until yesterday, anyway), but as it was an opt-in thing, it was a little easier to swallow; if you never gave out your "Real-ID", then it'd be a bit more difficult to pry it loose.

  But yesterday, Blizzard announced that in the near future, using the forums for their games would automatically use the player's Real-ID-and there's no opt-in for this...or an opt-out.  Unsurprisingly, this has caused a bit of a reaction.  As of this writing, 22,000 posts worth of reaction-and most say the same sort of thing.  To summarize:  "Do Not Want".

  I haven't seen a forum storm of this magnitude since the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies.  We know how that turned out.

  It seems to me to be a colossally dumb idea.  I've heard various reasoning behind it, from shaming forum trolls to an attempt to integrate completely with Facebook.  All well and good.  But a truism on the Internet is that you don't casually give out your customers' names out in the public eye.  It's like asking a libarary to give up the names of everyone who's checked out a certain book.  There's a certain expectation of personal privacy that's been ingrained in the MMO player, and Blizzard's basically thrown them out.  There are stories going around on the posts on how this move will assist stalkers, or increase abuse on players (God help anyone who's rolled an opposite-gendered character), and maybe that is true.  A lot depends on how motivated someone is to do these things.

  There are already a bunch of posts there shouting that they have cancelled their WoW subscriptions.  Maybe some of them actually have done so (it's easy to say it in a forum, and be back next month).  Perhaps there will be a large number of them; maybe it will be on an NGE scale.  Some articles have already hit the blogosphere wondering if the ultimate WoW-Killer turned out to be Blizzard.  I think that's probably exaggerating.  I have a strong feeling that even if this goes through (no sure thing, but it's looking likely), there will still be more than enough subscribers sticking around-especially with a new expansion slated to hit at the same time as this change.

  What it will do, however, is stifle the forums.  Sure, it'll put the light of shame on the forum trolls-although one would suspect that a troll is still a troll and wouldn't necessarily give a damn if his name is attached.  But it will also prevent the security minded from posting ever again-and this doesn't just include trolls.  It includes the people who put time and effort into writing guides, offering advice, recruiting for their guilds, asking for technical support-anything that involves the official forums for legitimate reasons.  Sure, their forums will be a quieter place-but then, it's imposed by fear.  Grand Moff Tarkin would be proud.

  Maybe Blizzard will understand what is going on here.  Maybe it will pull itself back from the brink.  But with a company that's pulling in so much cash, with the biggest MMORPG on the market (at least here in the States)...I have no doubt that they'll be happy to test their brinksmanship.  And that'll end in a bunch of players feeling the sting of betrayal from a company they once respected.  Is this the NGE for WoW?  It's pretty damned early to tell-it's been only a day.

  But then, everyone knew which way the wind was blowing one day after the NGE announcement.

Posted 7/1/2010 5:56 AM by coreth. 1534 reads. Share:

  Not too much of deep excitement to comment on recently.  The Mutant Booster Pack hit CoH recently, but it seems that for once, they've put out a pack I don't have any real interest in.  The costume change emotes and regular emotes in there don't do it for me, the costume parts don't appeal to me, and the secondary mutation power doesn't really work for me either.  So it looks like that this will be one of the few boosters I haven't felt enthusiastic about at the start, and the only one that hasn't caused me to change my mind after seeing the stuff in action.  Proof positive that microtransaction kind of stuff is hardly necessary in CoH to enjoy oneself.

  Aside from that, though, there's been a lot of quiet.  Still doing the gaming, obviously.  My second character in STO hit Commander recently, primarily through exploration missions.  That was one of the big goals with that character:  to NOT do the "normal" episodes, but to advance primarily through exploring star clusters.  Due to the way the timer works, however, I've had to modify this to "okay, I'll do the 'defend x sector block', too", which is something I usually prefer to avoid.  Might have to do with the fact that I'm using a science captain on an escort ship, and there's something gleefully about cutting loose with cannons and turrets.  Won't make me abandon my tactical/cruiser guy, of course; I'm still a much bigger fan of those ships and the beam arrays.  But I'm having fun with it.  Haven't done much with my engineering/science captain yet, although he's sitting at LCDR now, but I'll get to him eventually.  The Klingon Commander is waiting for Season 2.  More on that in a minute.

  CoH wise, still having fun with those guys too.  Armored Battalion hit 45 very recently, putting him up with Magic's Shadow as the "next most likely to hit 50".  He's got the inside edge, since MS has been sitting in that region for a long time now.  Villainwise, putting time into a new/old character, Baron Craven, who I'm using for the "villain nights" we have twice a month.  Still a lowbie, but he's at least got his travel power, so he's developing along nicely.

  In the next couple of months, there should be big things going on in both games.  STO will do it first with Season 2, with the promises of ship interiors, diplomatic missions, and even some Klingon episodes.  Unsurprisingly, the forums there are already complaining that those episodes won't be enough.  They're actually right, to an extent-it isn't.  But honestly, I'd  have been surprised if they had Fed-level content in just one Season release.  That's unrealistic, but good sense is something that has been lacking in that forum community for a long time.  I'd expect more episodes to come along as the game matures; and I expect to see a lot of "mutual" episodes, where both Klingons or Feds can play through.  Which will, of course, not be enough for the Klingon players (and the Feds may complain too); I've seen this before with the CoH content geared to both villains and heroes, and I fully expect it in STO too.  Speaking of CoH, the Going Rogue expansion has a release date of mid August now, and I'm already making plans as to what heroes will go to the Dark Side, and what villains will make the turnaround.  Big stuff coming soon, and I'm looking forward to all of it.

Posted 6/17/2010 8:46 AM by coreth. 1594 reads. Share:

  The hot-button topic on the STO forums of late has been the addition of pre-order bonuses to the C-Store, the game's microtransaction store.  Actually, I'm doing a disservice by starting there.  It really began when the news came out for the veteran rewards would include access to the previously-lifetime-sub-only Captain's Table location in the game.  Actually, it began even earlier, when a magazine promotion came out offering the TOS uniforms for characters.

  I've spoken of the attitude before.  And it seems that it's reared its head again.

  Start with full disclosure first.  I am a lifetime sub.  I did it prior to launch, which means I got the Borg Captain available to me along with the two extra character slots.  I preordered the game through Amazon.com, which meant I got the Borg bridge officer exclusive.  I received the TR-116 rifle because of an issue I had with billing and was given it to apologize for the length of time it took to resolve it.  I bought a "Best of ST:TNG" DVD which contained the Wrath of Khan uniforms.  When an opportunity came to get the TOS uniforms for free via the web site for the aforementioned magazine, I took advantage of it.

  The Wrath of Khan uniforms ended up being effectively freeware; the folks promoting it did the rather stupid thing of making the code for it the exact same in all of the boxes it was being sold with, so when that fact came out, it propogated on the Internet, and that was that.  Nonetheless, there were a lot of people screaming bloody murder about it.  It was even more inflammatory since originally, it was only included in a full season of DVDs for Star Trek, Blu-Ray; when it was released with the "Best of" DVDs, people yelled because those were at a substantially lower price.  That's right-these people bought the Blu-Ray DVDs for the sole purpose of getting the uniforms.  (Maybe that's true; maybe it's not-but if it's not that, then it's the entitlement philosophy all over again, and I have no respect for that.)

  Then along comes a promotion from a gaming magazine, which was given a number of codes for the TOS uniforms to do with as they would.  I presume it was figured that they would be in their magazines-it makes logical sense, after all.  Buy the magazine, get the code.  Standard promotional thing.  Of course, that infuriated folks who bought the DDE version of the game which had them.  It only got worse when the web site of the magazine put out some of the codes for free; not what I would've expected from them at all, honestly.  But once the magazine got the codes, they were the ones who determined what to do with them-not Cryptic.  Maybe Cryptic (or Atari, honestly) could have predicted they'd do that, and maybe not.  But they were the ones who suffered from the blowback.

  Then came the announcement of the veteran rewards, and the Captain's Table access.  Now we really got into the entitlement.  The lifetimers shouted "We paid for this!"  And I had to shake my head.  No:  we paid for a lifetime subscription.  The rest were bonuses, perks.  Thank yous.  Which, honestly, is the same kind of thing as a vet reward:  a "thank you from us to you".  But some folks persist in believing that the lifetime sub means anything more or less than the realization that, as soon as they've played enough that a normal sub would have equalled the money paid, it becomes a Free To Play game.  Honestly, did any of these people think the Captain's Table, a combadge, and a title was worth the amount of money paid?  They aren't-and that wasn't what the money was buying.

  Which brings us to the latest blowback.  The pre-order items put on sale in the C-Store.  A lot of people screaming about it, demanding compensation.

  For what?

  The preorder bonuses cost nothing extra to start with; the ones included with the DDE effectively added ten dollars to base cost, if memory serves.  And the way they talk, it's like they think all of these bonuses are being given away for free.  They aren't:  that's why it's called a store.  Of course, some of these people complain that they wouldn't have bought more than one copy of the game if they thought they were going to be on a microtransaction later.  Except, of course, there was a pre-order FAQ that explicitly mentioned they could well be in the C-store at a future time.  Guess what?  The future is now.

  The only ones I have any sympathy for (and it's not very much) are the ones who purchased Champions Online lifetime subs.  The pre-order FAQ wasn't around at that point, and the promotion for the Mirror Universe uniforms was long done by that point.  On the other hand:  what I said above about the STO lifetime subs applies just as much to the CO lifetime sub.  You weren't buying it for beta access to STO or for Mirror Universe uniforms-you were buying a lifetime sub for CO.  If the only reason someone did that was for the STO related stuff...well, caveat emptor.  They should have known better.  And after the closed beta fiasco, they probably should have realized that the uniforms were going to hit at some point.

  My opinion is pretty simple.  It should all hit the C-store.  There was plenty that didn't hit it-including the Borg Captains.  They should be on the store as well.  I'm still a bit shocked they aren't-as far as I'm concerned, there's no reason NOT to put them up (except, of course, for the screams from those who did the lifetime subs-and I've already covered my opinions on that).  At this point, the only things I'd leave alone are the vet reward items and the referral items; and honestly, I wouldn't lose sleep if they hit the C-store too.  My only reasoning for keeping those left alone is because they don't require a player (at this time) to spend real cash to get them outside of their normal subs.  (Those who purchase extra copies of the game solely for the referral bonuses are advised to remember the phrase "Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it".)

  To wrap up:  the only item that really, really gets my attention from the preorder bonuses is the TOS Constitution, and the price on it at the moment is a bit more than I'm willing to part with at this time (although eventually, when my lifetime sub eventually reachs the F2P status, it becomes a lot more attractive); the folks who preordered from Gamespot must be doing a jig, since it blows the C-store price of the other bonuses out of the water.  I didn't order from them; I'm not going to go on a roaring rampage because my pre-order bonus is being sold for a lot less.  Because I didn't buy for a bonus-I bought for a game.