Archive for October, 2010

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I Like This Fluff And I Cannot Lie

October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! It’s the best time for MMO gaming, if you ask me, a time when the most interesting events take place in our virtual worlds. I’m like a kid again, roaming the MMO neighborhood knocking on each door begging for treats.

Literally begging. Like, “Pleeeeeeeaaase, let that Skeleton Painted Horse drop for me this time!” I’ve logged into Lord of the Rings Online daily to try for this macabre black beauty, and alas, still no luck. I swear, I don’t recall even yearning so much for the World of Warcraft Headless Horseman mount. As an upside, I’ve picked up many other Harvestmath items, and all the quests have left me with more Fall Festival tokens than I know what to do with. I promptly went to do the horse races and picked up a Sable Harvestmath Steed, whose name is now “Consolation Horse.”

Okay, that was mean. I know horses have feelings too.

Now if only I wasn’t so dirt poor, I’d move out of my dinky house into a larger one so I can display even half my haul of fun items. This being my first year of LOTRO, I’m drinking it all in.

I didn’t really check into WoW’s Hallow’s End this year, seeing as it’s something I’ve done so many times already. And the latest patch has been such a troublemaker, the last thing I want to do is play bob for bugs.

The third MMO I’m playing right now is Star Trek Online. There’s no event happening there per se, but their efforts to join in the fun can be gleaned from their latest hair-raising Feature Episode “What Lies Beneath” (more on that tomorrow).

Anyway, like the title of this post states, I love fluff. All the nice things in our MMOs that have no real purpose or impact outside their own context, but I participate in anyway, just for the sake of the experience. In LOTRO, my vice is housing decorations. In WoW, it’s vanity pets. And in STO, it’s costumes. While it’s not included in the current C-store sale, I picked up the new Seven of Nine costume.

Over-sexualized and impractical? Hey, I don’t disagree! But personally, it bothers me no more than gold armor bikinis or superhero leotards. And what better time than Halloween to slap on a skintight cat-suit and parade around the galaxy? Give T’Andy a pair of ears and she’s all but ready to storm your bridge, polaron-split-beam rifle in hand yelling “Trick or Treat!”

Speaking of treat, I also gave in to a temptation which had been gnawing at me for weeks, and I am now a proud owner of a giant teddy bear with six-inch fangs. What kind of Vulcan would I be, anyway, without my loyal pet Sehlat?

And now if you’ll excuse me, there has been knocking at the door since 3pm. Off to pick out the 3 Musketeers bars for myself from the treat bowl before the kids take them all.

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The Mission Of Imperial Intelligence

October 29, 2010

Out of all the classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’d always thought the Imperial Agent would be one of the least played at launch. Popularity-wise, they’re no force-users, and in terms of having an iconic status, the class is still no match for the Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, or Trooper. Plus, what we knew about them before today was scant at best. Until now, the details on the the Imperial Agent had been much like the class, elusive.

When the Friday update hit, the Imperial Agent came roaring into the spotlight along with boatload of new information. And God knows I’m also a sucker for anything that includes a video:

I love the 007 undertones — great kiss, great accent. And apparently too cool to stick around to look at explosions. But suddenly, the underdog looks like a winner. Dammit, how do you do that, Bioware?

The class now has its Advanced Classes detailed: Sniper and Operative. The former sounds like a “ranged rogue”, which is exactly as expected, but to me it’s the latter that looks a lot more interesting to play. Like the Smuggler, the Imperial Agent will have healing capabilities and the Operative tree will have the talents to handle those duties.

Kaliyo Djannis was revealed to be a companion for the Imperial Agent. Based on her description, I have to agree with a couple people who’ve said she brings to mind certain existing female characters from Bioware — a bit of Jack from Mass Effect 2, a bit of Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins. And 100% crazy. Boy, wouldn’t she be a joy to romance! Assuming this “Cannibal-Demon” thing is just a name and she won’t go praying mantis on you after sex.

Also revealed is the gorgeous looking X70B-Phantom. I imagine if Aston Martin ever made a starship, this is what it would look like — sleek and technologically stacked, just how an Imperial Agent’s ride should be. But that’s not what’s making me feel a little jealous. No, what strikes me is how the interiors look so much better than the others we’ve seen so far. Watching the video clip, it’s like peering into a penthouse suite of some 5-star hotel, complete with *ahem* king-sized bed. The insides of the others look like dingy scrap yards compared to this luxury yacht.

And finally, we have the Chiss as a new entry on the Inhabitants page. In Star Wars lore, the most well-known Chiss is probably Grand Admiral Thrawn, who served the Empire brilliantly in the Imperial Navy. When deciding which species can be playable as Imperial Agents, this probably made the developers decide on the Chiss, even though the Empire was already biased against aliens in their ranks even in the SWTOR era, as shown by the discrimination faced by the Epicanthix agent in the novel Fatal Alliance. I don’t know if this class will end up being playable by any more species other than human, but despite the restrictions they had to work with, I think the Chiss was a sound choice.

Now I just can’t wait until they do the Bounty Hunter.

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New Friends In New Vegas

October 27, 2010

In my last post about Fallout: New Vegas, I think I made a comment that implied I felt the quest lines were shallow and weren’t as compelling as I’d liked. Well, I take that back. I think it’s safe to say everything I experienced in the first 10 hours or so was just a small taste of what the game has to offer. Just a tiny little morsel to whet your appetite, so to speak, because the real fun happens when you hit The Strip.

Here’s what I think really makes the game: Factions, factions, factions. There are a ton of them in New Vegas, each having their own rich culture and stories. Some are big, some are small. A couple of them are so scummy it makes your skin crawl. Others are really bizarre like that gang of Elvis impersonators. Many of them have cool names like the Followers of the Apocalypse and the White Glove Society. Would that I could please them all.

I love the Black Widow perk.

Once Mogsy the Courier reached the bright lights of New Vegas proper, however, it became clear that all the factions have these complex relationships between themselves. They’re all eager enough to get you to do things for them, of course, but please one and you risk pissing off another. I had a very difficult time choosing which factions I should get in bed with (just a turn of phrase…or is it? With Mogsy, you never know!) but in the end, I remembered how I wanted to play — no more goody-two-shoes and running around being somebody else’s errand girl. I was going to try to be mean and mercenary for once, and I figured if I’m going to have any chance of taking over New Vegas, I’d do well to ally myself with like-minded people…at least for now.

What I didn’t foresee was how things could get so complicated. Yes, you can lie, con, manipulate and exploit your way into and out of favor with your factions of choice, but every decision you make can affect your relationship with other factions in ways you can’t even imagine. I went as far as to vaporize one of my pretty little companions to prove my loyalty to a psychopath in an organized crime syndicate, thinking I’d made a true friend, only to have him turn around later and forge an alliance with a “good guy” faction I’d made every effort to ignore. Then I find out even the good guys can ask you to do some pretty sick and unsavory things too, wow.

I like how the lines are so blurry. To me, these dynamic relationships give the game depth and really take the experience to a whole new level, not to mention they also greatly increase the fun factor. Meanwhile, I’ve also been amusing myself with shooting old ladies for their sarsaparilla star caps and special unique weapons, plus testing out sexbots on the side, but that’s a whole other story.

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The End Of An Era For Lifetime Memberships

October 26, 2010

This morning, I received an email from Cryptic announcing that Champions Online is going free-to-play beginning sometime in Q1 2011. I can’t say I was surprised to see another subscription-based MMO go F2P. In fact (and I feel kind of bad for admitting this), I think a part of me was hoping Champions Online will be next. The game and I had a brief but rather delectable tryst back in the winter of 2009, before technical issues on my old computer ended things between us and I’ve always regretted not returning even after I knew the issues were fixed. Thus, my first reaction to the news was excitement, knowing that its upcoming F2P status will mean I’ll be checking in with it again before long.

But after the initial joy, I had second thought: Is this the end of the lifetime subscription?

This thought came to me because Champions Online is one of several games that has tempted me with their lifetime membership option in the past. I never did buy any of them though. For one thing, I have a problem and it’s called MMO ADD. Getting the most out of an LTS requires commitment, and I know I’m notoriously unfaithful to my MMOs. I do so like to fool around with multiple games, maybe play one for a few months before canceling the sub and trying out another. Looking back, only a few MMOs have managed to keep me around for longer than a year, and even those have seen me take long breaks from them for months at a time. Lifetime subscriber or not, I won’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth if I’m not playing at all, so I’ve always felt safer for opting to pay only for the months I know I will play, and my $200 actually goes farther for me that way.

But the truth is, a few years ago I still would have considered a lifetime sub, depending on the game. If it’s something I know I’ll stick with for years and years, sooner or later I know I will reach the break even point. These days, however, when it seems floundering and non-floundering MMOs alike are switching to F2P, you have to wonder if you’ll even get there before your game decides to follow the same trend. Case in point, I feel I dodged a bullet this January when I swear I was just a heartbeat away from getting a LTS to Lord of the Rings Online before ultimately changing my mind. While I don’t doubt lifetime subscribers will get compensated somehow, like in the form of game store points, I’d still rather keep cold hard cash.

I really don’t think we’ll be seeing too many games offer lifetime subs anymore, not when developers and players alike know the possibility of switching to F2P is lurking around every corner. A pity, really, because even though I’ve never bought an LTS, I’ve always liked it as a payment model. The last time one called to me was when Star Trek Online came out, but call me crazy, at the time I was uncomfortable with dropping any amount of cash valuing more than $100 on a product I didn’t even know will be any good. After realizing the game was actually pretty decent I started contemplating again, but after this morning all those thoughts have gone out the window. Along with many others, I’m beginning to wonder what this news for Champions Online might mean for the future of STO. If a F2P Champions Online proves to be a success, I don’t think it’s a stretch to predict that STO (regardless of how well it’s doing now) may soon follow in its footsteps as well.

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STO: Spin The Wheel, The Ghosts Are Real

October 25, 2010

"77th Rule of Acquisition is 'You break it, you buy it', I gotcha. Say, just out of curiosity, how much would you charge for something like your spine?"

I learned something new from the latest Star Trek Online feature episode this weekend — threatening to snap a Ferengi’s spine in his own bar will get you thrown out faster than a useless bridge officer through my airlock. All evidence pointed to “Spin the Wheel” being a diplomatic mission, but I was still in dick-mode from playing Fallout: New Vegas and I also figured who was going to care if I roughed up one stupid little Ferengi?

Take two. After failing the mission and being thoroughly chastised by Section 31 operative Franklin Drake for being a churlish Vulcan, I restarted the episode resolving to be more personable and found I didn’t actually have to remain diplomatic for very long — the rest of the mission had more to do with problem solving and mini-games. It was up to me to investigate one of Drake’s undercover agents, Ze’Mara, who had activated an emergency beacon while on Drozana station. To do that involved playing nice and fixing that pesky Ferengi’s replicators, which had started acting up around the same time the lights in the place started flickering blue.


The ghosts walk among us.

At long last, I finally got to see Ze’Mara. Poor girl. She thinks she sees dead people. Of course, these “blue ghosts” are in fact Devidians, the current story arc’s featured enemies. But somehow, I doubt she’d find much comfort in the truth.

For more on “Spin the Wheel”, check out Tipa’s cool write-up here.

A small complaint about this weekly: while the crowded atmosphere created by the shared instance worked well for the areas around the bar and the Dabo tables, it completely ruined the effect while trying to do the puzzle down in the cargo bay. The puzzle itself was straightforward since the answers are practically right there in front of you as long as you read all the engineering reports, but I still could have done without a whole room of players talking about it and blabbing out the correct sequence in general chat. Not to mention how two dozen people running around that tiny area can be distracting and breaks immersion. What could have been a really tense situation instead turned into a rather ridiculous one.

Dammit, Jim, I'm a warrior, not an engineer.

I can’t say I enjoyed “Spin the Wheel” as much as I’d hoped, but Cryptic did well for a non-combat episode that was more or less required to be there to set up the rest of the story, and I liked the cliffhanger at the end. Apparently, while Franklin Drake takes exception to the idea of T’Andy breaking people’s backs, he sees no problems with doling out threats of his own.

Oh well, at the end of the day, I’m happy as long as I get a big gun. Look out, Devidians, next week T’Andy’s going ghost-bustin’!

The Synchronic Proton Distortion Prototype Rifle. Can you say that five times fast?

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A Tale Of Three Biographies

October 22, 2010

Based on opinions I’ve seen around the community, I gather most gamers care about having a story and lore elements behind the MMOs they play. So I  have to wonder why it is that so many people on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums will turn up their noses in scorn when it comes to updates like Biographies.

I know it’s not much, and I don’t deny that I would rather see updates related more to the MMO side of things, but why can’t we take reveals like these at face value and appreciate them for the information they do bring? Like the fact that things like biographies, timelines, and inhabitant pages, etc. are important resources that contribute in making our game worlds richer, fuller places to be? I for one think that’s a good thing. And furthermore, it’s Bioware and Star Wars, the former a company known for their story-driven games and the latter a franchise based in an extensive yet finely detailed universe rife with lore. These kinds of updates sort of come with the territory.

Maybe it’s just me. Personally, I believe all knowledge is worth having and yes, I’m one of those people who read every single codex entry in the Mass Effect games and Dragon Age: Origins.

Today’s update includes three new biographies, one for each allegiance:

  • Keeper: Director of Operations for the Imperial Intelligence sounds like your typical sinister spymaster. I can’t remember for sure, but I think he may have been in the book Star Wars: The Old Republic – Fatal Alliance.
  • Bouris Ulgo: Oh, sweet, a mad king. Some speculate a relationship to Trask Ulgo because several forumites have deciphered a bit of the Aurabesh on his page to read “For Trask”.
  • Diab Duin: I’m a big fan of Sullustans! And if he’s the diplomat or representative for an important resource planet, is there a chance that that planet could one day be in the game?

If anything, I wish we could have gotten more information in these biographies. It’s nice reading about these NPCs who will have important roles in the game and all, but without context, it’s hard to feel anything beyond that. Will we personally encounter them in the game, and if we do, are they quest givers, rep leaders, etc. or what? Now that I know their facts and background, I want to know why my player character should care.

Today’s update also included a Fan Friday with a Developer Corner covering concept art creation, but I’m sorry, the greatest thing about that whole article has gotta be these new Ithorian smilies!

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Me, Myself And The Wasteland

October 21, 2010

Oh, and Victor. Thanks, by the way, I do feel as fit as a fiddle.

While reading Gordon’s blog post about MMOs and fun vs. habit the other day, it occurred to me that, yes, I’ve logged in to games before for no other reason than that it feels like the right thing to do. I’ve gone through the MMO motions before, and afterward wound up feeling like I’ve eaten a big meal without really tasting any of it. And yes, the MMOs I play can sometimes feel like a “giant comfort blanket” of familiarity that I wrap myself in to achieve a sense of habitual routine and stability. Not that it’s always a bad thing, mind you; I’m a human being after all and need some order in my life, dammit. Nevertheless, sometimes that blanket can feel heavy enough to suffocate me.

I guess this is what people mean when they say they’ve fallen into an “MMO rut.” Personally, I’ll always love MMOs no matter what, so I try hard not to let myself get to the point where I stop having fun or start feeling unhappy. But a girl’s just gotta get away from the massively multiplayer environment and have some “Me” time every once in a while, that’s all. But while Gordon finds it difficult to pick up where he left off after a reasonable period of absence from a game, it’s the opposite for me. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and to be sure, I always attack my MMOs with a renewed fervor after being away from them for a while.

Aren't they like the cutest things you've ever seen? Seriously!

This is where the single-player game comes in. Case in point, I’m currently spicing up my gaming life with a delightfully sultry affair with Fallout: New Vegas. I’d been looking forward to this for a long time.

After two days of playing, I’m about six hours in and still haven’t even made it to The Strip yet, so any opinions are still a little premature. But I’m liking what I see so far, though admittedly parts of the game feel slightly sloppy and lacking in polish. I’m not just talking about the bugs either; so far the story lines and quests are great but just don’t feel as “tight” as they could be. The characters I’ve encountered are intriguing, but I haven’t been able to get a good grasp on anyone’s personality the way I was immediately able to do so in Fallout 3, probably because I was thrown into the Mojave Wasteland to fend for myself so soon after the very short intro.

By the way, comparisons between Fallout 3 and New Vegas are going to be inevitable, since they do feel very similar.

Mogsy's the best kind of person there is.

Anyway, I had a chat with one of my friends earlier today about how I’m going to play my character. In Fallout 3, I was a goody-two-shoes to the end, and so this time I definitely want to play the jerk in New Vegas. It’s hard for me, even though it’s a game, just because it’s so against my nature. I really have to push myself to make my Mogsy evil, but so far she can only manage to steal things when no one is watching, and shoot innocent people in the back of their heads when they aren’t expecting it. Oh my God, I can’t even bring myself to be a straightforward asshole, I gotta be the pathetic and cowardly kind. But hey, more of my karma seeps away from me each day, and well, whatever works.

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