Archive for May 24th, 2011

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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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