Archive for May, 2011

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Cryptic Acquired By Perfect World

May 31, 2011

Merely a couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about what I thought of Atari’s decision to sell Cryptic, and held out hope that the developer would eventually find a good place to call home. Turns out we didn’t have to wait for long; today the news came out that Perfect World has acquired Cryptic.

Thought I’d throw in my two cents again, seeing as how a great many responses have already surfaced, ranging from those who are sure this deal will spell nothing but doom, to those who are positively ecstatic — one more opinion couldn’t possibly hurt. First of all, I’ll admit that I’m only mildly familiar with Perfect World as a company. I’ve never played any of their games, and much of what I’ve heard about their business practices comes from second hand knowledge — such as their “Asian grinder” stereotype and inclination towards free-to-play and cash shops…but to be fair, also the fact they purchased Runic Games last year and for the most part have left it alone.

To be honest, none of that really means squat to me, because my gut already says Perfect World will likely take a similar “hands-off” approach when it comes to Cryptic. That is, if this purchase was indeed a “strategic acquisition” and their opportunity to “further penetrate into the U.S. and global online game markets”…well, if that’s true, then it just wouldn’t make much sense for them to turn right around and screw with Cryptic’s games. I think to do so would be highly illogical, to quote our favorite pointy-eared friend.

Speaking of which, my interest in all this is, of course, because of Star Trek Online. Ever since Champions Online went free-to-play, there has been speculation on whether or not it’s Cryptic’s “F2P experiment”, and that maybe STO will soon follow. Given how long it’s been on players’ radar screens, if the game does go down that route, I can’t say it’ll be a shocker. My guess, however, is that the decision will come more from within Cryptic, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately gets attributed to the new ownership. How that situation might be handled, though, is also up for speculation. Regardless, it’s way too early to say whether or not this will affect my sub. Way, way too early to say this acquisition is “definitely good” or “definitely bad”, really.

At least now Cryptic has a home and a more stable source of funds and resources at their disposal to continue work on their games. I predict things should be business-as-usual for the foreseeable future. Sure, I could be wrong, but like Blue Kae I’m willing to sit back to wait and see before I tear out my hair and run screaming down the street panicking.

Yep, cautiously optimistic. That’s me, too.

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Star Trek Online: Remastered “Diplomatic Orders” And “Doomsday Device”

May 31, 2011

Star Trek Online keeps giving me reasons to hop back into the captain’s chair. This long weekend saw the release of two remastered episodes and I thought I’d take some time to share some thoughts and screenshots — because some of the new changes the devs have made to “Diplomatic Orders” and “Doomsday Device” are seriously neat.

Diplomatic Orders

Not surprised at all that this was one of the episodes that got remastered, since in my opinion it was always one of the best missions in the game. In fact, “Diplomatic Orders” was also the first episode I did again when the rerun feature got put into the game, way back when. The story has since been updated, with new cutscenes and voice overs.

Just a couple of highlights — I absolutely adore the new Vulcan. The environmental tweaks to it are especially impressive — lines making up the landscape are much smoother, easier on the eyes, and looks more natural. No more awkward structures and strange dips in the sand. As to why I feel this is noteworthy, the fact that I got my stupid ass stuck behind a monolith the first time I ever set foot on the old Vulcan might have something to do with it. This new Vulcan, on the other hand, is beautiful and dummy-proof!

My other favorite part about this mission is the new reward — Data Recorder which allows you to replay Leonard Nimoy’s lovely Spock voice over again and again as much as I could ever want. I’m also quite keen on the likeness, which by the way, Cryptic, any chance we can ever get a Spock holo? T’Androma would love something like that to put on her bridge so she can…um, okay, never mind.

Final verdict: Excellent.

Doomsday Device

Not that I didn’t appreciate the alterations to the story, the conclusion, and all the good stuff like the new cutscenes, but…simply put, I felt out of my element for this remastered version of “Doomsday Device”.

Firstly, T’Andy gets beamed over to the Klingon ship alone. I had some NPC back up, but I was never able to shake the nagging feeling that my bridge officers should really be the ones doing this with their captain, or at least the part where we clear the ship. Secondly, much of the space combat in this episode now happens in a Klingon ship. It felt different, but wouldn’t have been so bad if it didn’t also feel so grossly under-equipped after being so used to flying and fighting in my own Maelstrom.

Speaking of which, T’Andy’s Klingon disguise is hideous, her unfortunate features only offset in the image above by the awesome sauce that is the majestic Bird of Prey docked in the background.

The new cutscenes and voice overs were great as usual — I honestly never expected to be serenaded to by a Klingon! Albeit it was a war song, probably about breaking my spine, or some such. A rousing tune, nonetheless, and what is arguably one of the most epic cutscenes in any game.

The new story elements, however, have its costs. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to remember the old version of this mission being a little more action-packed, with a lot less chatter and running back and forth. The mechanics for the final fight has also been changed, which confused me at first — I kept wondering where to go to pick up my special torpedoes as that was what I remembered most about from the original! As it is now, the Hargh’peng torpedoes are already loaded which made life a lot easier, but the doomsday device is just as deadly.

Good thing I’m not above getting myself blown up for a couple of nice screenies!

A lot more where that came from, as the remastered environments are probably what I appreciated most about this episode.

Final verdict: Didn’t like the remastered “Doomsday Device” as much as I thought I would but it’s still a lot of fun, and in my opinion much improved from the original.

In fact, I would recommend my fellow STO captains give all the remastered episodes a try if you haven’t already; it’s worth it, and if anything the new rewards are nice. Even “Stranded in Space” has a new Azura Personal Comm Code reward that will allow you to access your bank, mail or a store from anywhere in the galaxy! It’s very handy.

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Riftshot Of The Day: Swift Silver

May 30, 2011

Okay. There. Finally. I feel like the last 50 to get their fast mount, considering how long I’ve spent at this level.

Ironic thing is, ever since then, I’ve actually probably made enough plat to afford this thing 3 times over by now. Just goes to show how much money I blow instead on pretty outfits and artifacts in the auction house. Shinies before swiftness!

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SWTOR: Troopers Bring The Big Guns

May 27, 2011

A new Trooper progression video from Star Wars: The Old Republic:

/Cry. I am so torn.

My plan: I’ll be playing Bounty Hunter for sure, but I think I’m also going to roll a Republic character to play with friends from the other faction, and this is also the character I plan on locking in to the dreaded “Spousal Leveling Contract”. My husband is old school and would prefer to play a Jedi on the “good” side anyway, so this works well. Either way, the Bounty Hunter will be the character I play on my own terms, but this also means I’ll be spending a good chunk of time on the Republic alt, and I want to make my class choice a good one.

Before this video, it was a three-way tie between the Jedi Consular, Smuggler and Trooper. Now the Trooper, the class I thought I’d be least likely to play when I first heard about it, is actually edging out in front. It’s got a couple great things going for it, like if I ever get the urge to carry a huge ass gun…or knife some Sith in the face. Not to mention the female version will be voiced by the very talented Jennifer Hale.

Funny story, but I also have a soft spot for the Trooper armor, especially the sets in the above video that include the “butt flap” (my apologies, but I don’t know the technical name for that nifty piece of cloth hanging over his backside).

In most games, I usually turn on the “Hide Cloak” option because more often than not, parts of my character’s model or the graphics of my weapon strapped to my back will cut through, and in my opinion it just looks terrible. During my time at PAX East, however, I was practically in a trance watching the Troopers run in the Taral V demos, fixated with the way the backs of their heels kicked up the butt flap with every stride instead of showing through. Cloth actually moves like cloth should! Sorry…but it was pretty mesmerizing.

I think other people thought I was weird, being riveted by something so little when there’s so much more happening on screen like the environment and combat to be oohing and aahing over, but sometimes it’s the developer’s attention to little details like that which affect me the most.

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Rift: Fraternizing With The Enemy

May 26, 2011

I don’t recall if I’ve ever written about the fact you can communicate with the other faction in Rift, but regardless, it’s a feature that’s been around since day one and which I find myself appreciating more and more each day.

Originally, I was a little skeptical towards the idea, but after thinking about it, it really does make more sense from a PvE perspective. Lorewise, all things point to Guardians and Defiants speaking the same language, so there really is no logical explanation why they shouldn’t they be able to understand and communicate with each other. Fundamentally, our two sides might be at odds, but we also share a common enemy. We don’t play nice together, but when a rift invasion is threatening to tear apart our land, perhaps dropping our ideological differences and banding together temporarily would be good for both sides in the long run? At least, that’s the way I see it.

A personal anecdote: the other day, I found myself and another Defiant meeting up with a Guardian at a major rift in Shimmersand — all farming earth and fire for the eggshell dailies, what else? Admittedly, old habits die hard. Every once in a while I still want to slap myself when I remember that instead of hopelessly emoting gestures to a Guardian, I can simply /say to them what I think. Kek!

In short, however, the three of us ended up working out roles between ourselves on the fly — without having to mime it all out, thank god. Obviously, neither my group member nor I could do anything for the Guardian tank, so he went DPS instead while I healed and my Defiant partner took up the tanking duties. It was a quiet night, as it was only the three of us for a long time. Regardless, we steamrolled through about a half a dozen major rifts, banished our foes, collected our loot, finished our dailies, and everyone went to bed happy.

As someone who is predominantly a PvE’er, I can see the value behind such interactions. Our factions may hate each other, but we’re not all unreasonable. Communication allows for planning during times when cooperation will benefit everyone, which is what makes Rift such a unique game in my eyes because rifts are dynamic events that can happen out of the blue at any time regardless of who’s around. You can’t always choose your allies, and having the ability to communicate with whoever’s there is a nice option to have. I’m not saying we should all sit around a campfire and sing Kumbaya, but I also like the idea of being able to say a proper “Thank you” when a Guardian goes out of their way to save my skin out of the goodness of their own heart.

Sure, PvP on the other hand is now filled with 100% more trash talk, but despite initial concerns that it would lead to wide-spread dickery, it really hasn’t. I seem to recall Scott Hartsman saying something about wanting to give people a chance, and I think ultimately that was a good call.

Besides, on Faeblight I get the pleasure of witnessing some truly phenomenal, grade-A RP trash talking. Some time during my first week, a group of us were mowed down by a roleplaying guild of level 50 Guardians cutting a swath through Freemarch, but instead of being pissed, I thought it was actually quite awesome to have been slain for my impiety. One has not truly lived until he or she has had the experience of some Guardian yelling down at their dead body, calling you and all your friends a bunch of “vile, godless dog-hearted mountain troll whore-sons.”

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STO: Of Reruns, Peregrine Fighters, And Horta Armies

May 24, 2011

It’s always an ordeal when family comes to visit, even when it’s my kid brother and his roommate, so I knew I was looking at a busy schedule this last weekend. Thursday, I took the opportunity to play the Star Trek Online “Cloaked Intentions” rerun the night it debuted so I could get what I wanted done before real life got crazy.

I saw Blue Kae on at the time, so we did the episodes together. For “The Vault”, both of us decided to buy the new Peregrine Fighter, or what I personally like to call the mini-manta ray. Indeed, if my Maelstrom Class Fleet Escort ever got herself knocked up and had a baby, it would look like this:

Having been a fan of cannons for a long time now, you’d think adjusting to this thing would be easier for me, but handling it right out of the box was still a learning experience. At first, space combat with cloaked Scorpion Fighters in “The Vault” was almost like trying to pelt rocks at a moving target with a slingshot while bungee jumping. Ironically, part of this is because of how beautifully smooth it flies.

After we grabbed the new dual cannons reward, Kae and I moved on to the second episode “Mine Enemy” to earn ourselves the combat Horta schematic. Being able to “craft” a living creature is weird, but no weirder than being able to buy, sell, trade or send bridge officers through the mail like chattel I suppose.

At first, our combat Hortas just sat there when summoned, like the lumps of rocks they resembled. But in a fight, it turns out they go right up to engage in some hand-to-ha — um…brick? — combat with the enemy. Here, mine takes punches for me like a champ:

The upgrade from the Horta hatchling to one that can fight for you is a permanent change, however, so of course, I redid “Mine Enemy” once more to get it back.

Mark my words — with my Horta army of two, I shall take over the galaxy!

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Contemplating Rift Server Transfers

May 24, 2011

Did you hear? Rift to offer free character transfers to select servers once per week. Not that I would ever dream of leaving my home of Faeblight, but hearing this news is cause to rejoice especially when it comes on the heels of Blizzard’s recent announcement of a possible premium cross-realm dungeon feature. Yeah, at first glance, Trion’s move looked to me like a direct and rather obvious retort to that 800-pound gorilla in the room.

To Trion, I say jolly good show. Friends playing the same game but not being able to do it together because they’re on different servers has always been the downside of multi-shard MMOs, so anything that helps facilitate that is a positive move in my book. I did cheer with the masses when I heard the news, but now that a little time has passed and the celebrations are over and the dust has settled, it’s time to look at things a little more closely.

Some bloggers have already started, and I have to confess when I started mulling over the specific wording of “select servers”, my own train of thought lead me to similar speculations. The FAQ confirmed suspicions that players will only be able to use this service to move to specific shards, presumably as a way for Trion to balance populations. I joked earlier today about staying away from Faeblight, but it probably won’t matter — being one of the heavily-populated servers, I would be surprised if it even ends up being eligible for this service at all.

Weighing in on this, I can see how there might possibly be something more to the story, whether it could be motivated by server imbalances or a move to put a positive PR spin on the problem of low populations. In light of those posts I linked, my excitement has admittedly come down a notch or two, but despite the strings attached, however, I still see reasons to be optimistic.

I play on Faeblight, and it’s practically always busy, day and night. Doesn’t mean I discount the woes of others who complain about their servers being dead; it just seems to me that players are unevenly spread out. Trion’s guiding hand may help alleviate some of these distribution problems. As well, it might allow players to “test drive” servers before they choose one to put down roots, because God knows how hard it is sometimes to find a server to call home, and I’ve regretted my share of server choices in the past.

Regardless of its limitations, it is also my hope that this move by Trion will set the precedent for future MMOs. The initial wave of impressed reactions at least showed that gamers are sick of being nickel-and-dimed for what we believe are essential services, and that $25 per character transfer or paying an effing premium to play with friends might be just a tad unreasonable.

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