Archive for the ‘Champions Online’ Category

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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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Cryptic For Sale

May 18, 2011

To be honest, I’m not all that torn up about the news regarding Atari’s decision to sell Cryptic. Sure, I’m a little sad because anything that results in instability can’t be good –  but certainly I’m relieved that many of the concerns earlier were simply blown out of proportion, that Cryptic isn’t the sad image of “the kicked puppy standing in the rain” and everything is business-as-usual.

I’m still looking on the bright side. Not that I have anything against Atari, but it’s probably accurate to say that many of the wonky decisions I’ve doubted in the past have in fact come from the publisher and not Cryptic. I have also seen how the developer has chafed under their thumb. So frankly, if Atari currently wants to shift their focus away from development and expand into “casual online and mobile games” instead, I see this as the best for everyone…just my two cents.

After all, things have also been going well for Cryptic lately; based on what I’ve seen from Star Trek Online, they work their tushies off over there. At this juncture, I think what the company needs is a partner that will actually take pride in their work, as well as the resources to keep doing what they do best.

As long as things continue as normal (it appears to be so) my support remains with the dev teams and their games and future projects, regardless of where the wind takes them. Here’s hoping someone out there will recognize the talent and potential that Cryptic has, because they do good work and ’cause they’ve got streeeeength of the souuuul, and no one’s gonna bend or break — okay, sorry, couldn’t resist.

Best of luck, Cryptic. May you find a buyer in good time and keep moving forward.

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Developer Appreciation Week (DAW): Saying My Thanks!

March 21, 2011

Last year, Scarybooster came up with a concept — one that I would love to see become a tradition — called Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) where for one week, gamers put aside all their criticism, gripes, and general negativity to show our devs some love.

I thought this was a wonderful idea. I mean, we all play the games we do for a reason, right? We play them because we like them, and because we find things we enjoy about them, and because they are fun. But too often when I look around the blogosphere, these reasons are overshadowed by even the smallest grievances and complaints. So how great would it be that for one week, we get to bury all that for a change, and just focus on the good things? To lavish praise where it is due? To be given leave to be as big a fanboy/fangirl as you please?

Last year I participated in DAW with a post that thanked entire teams and companies for making the MMOs I have enjoyed over the last twelve months, and I think I will continue with that format today. It’s too difficult for me to even pick one creative team to focus on, let alone an individual person! As Scary himself says, it is such a hard process to find a specific developer to praise because each of them deserves it. It takes a team to make a game, and they’ve all done such great work in my eyes.

To Funcom and the Age of Conan team – Thank you. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into improving AoC and for the Rise of the Godslayer expansion released last year. You brought to life the breathtaking world of Khitai and gave me the chance — even if it was only for a brief time — to experience the meaning of true beauty in an MMO. To this day, the time I spent in AoC remains one of my most immersive experiences. To Funcom, keep up the good work and I look forward to The Secret World.

To Cryptic and the Champions Online and Star Trek Online teams - Thank you. Thank you for being the company that works its butt off. Cryptic will always have a special place in my heart, for all the great memories their MMOs have given me and continues to give me every day. In making Champions free-to-play, I was able to jump right back into a game I never truly really wanted to leave in the first place (technical difficulties) and I never realized how much more fun it was in that game to play with other people. F2P makes that easy — I look forward to fighting villains with my friends Blue Kae, Talyn, Oakstout and others again soon.

To Daniel Stahl and the hardworking men and women developing STO, the good things I want to say can probably fill a book. I was so happy to be part of their one-year anniversary in-game celebrations. The game has had its ups and downs, that is true…but I have seen much passion and effort in the past year reflected in the updates and Q&As, and you listen to your fans, which I respect immensely. I still feel this game is one of the more underrated ones on the market; issues with ground combat and complaints about the awkwardness of ship maneuvering abound, but rarely have I seen real praise for what I truly believe is a unique and innovative crew system. And no appreciation post would be complete without a nod to their Feature Episodes — I am eagerly awaiting the next arc, as my weekends feel a little more empty now without them.

To ArenaNet and the Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 teams - Thank you. Thank you for daring to be different, and for giving gamers the gift of more choice — from offering us subscription-free business models to other innovative approaches in online gaming. I was glad for my opportunity to delve into Guild Wars this last year, and I am eagerly awaiting to see what Guild Wars 2 will bring. It is hard not to get excited, when each piece of news or information that comes out is filled to the brim with creativity and interesting ideas.

To Turbine and the Lord of the Rings Online team – Thank you. Thank you for giving me a home in Middle Earth and for the months of joy LOTRO has given me this past year. I’ve always thought of the game as my “MMO spa”, a place to which I can escape for a relaxing game session — and going free-to-play did not change that. My compliments to the developers, who have worked so hard in ensuring that when I log into LOTRO, I feel as if I’m entering a different world. They’ve done so much in creating an immersive experience and fostering a fantastic community, I can’t help but repeat a thought I had last year — that if J.R.R. Tolkien was alive to play the game today, I think he would be damn proud.

To Blizzard and the World of Warcraft team – Thank you. Thank you for still being willing to take risks even after more than six years of success. Despite what others may say, I did think Cataclysm was a gutsy move. I know I’ve complained enough times about my disdain for WoW endgame, but have rarely ever talked what I did like about the expansion — questing and leveling. Yes, I know I say that about practically every MMO I play, but the new quests in Cataclysm were really something. Even if it was only five levels, I personally enjoyed them for what they were. Questing my way through each zone was like working my way through a storybook, and for the first time in years, I actually felt interested and excited about what WoW quest text had to say again.

To BioWare and BioWare Austin – Thank you. Thank you for advocating a bigger focus on lore and character, for pushing the boundaries of video game writing, and for putting story first. Thank you for making groundbreaking RPGs in recent years like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and delighting me with choices, consequences, and interactions with the game environment and NPCs in ways I’ve never imagined. Thank you for the desire to bring those elements to MMOs. To the Star Wars: The Old Republic team, I appreciate all the weekly updates on the game, even the Fan Fridays and the tiniest lore reveals. Not too many companies do that for their fans.

To Trion and the Rift team - Thank you. Thank you for releasing a complete and polished MMO. And the more I play Rift, the more I find to like about it — from rifting to artifact collecting, from the soul system to running dungeons with my guild. I’ve seen for months people saying Rift is a fun game, but that Trion hasn’t really made any huge breakthroughs or done anything that new — but I tend to disagree. For one, the devs have bent over backwards in some cases to listen to their players. Yet they’ve also stuck to their goals, to bring about their vision for the game. And finally, they made full use of the beta process and managed to pull off an incredibly smooth launch. I feel Trion has in fact managed to do something very few MMO companies have done before. I know it’s a different argument, but it counts for something.

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My Champions Online Superhero Character: A Creative Endeavor

February 2, 2011

It might be all the same for some, but because roleplaying is such an important aspect in my MMO gaming, creating a character in a superhero game can mean going through a much different and more convoluted process. After all, besides having to sport a skintight costume that defies all laws of gravity and wedgies, one can argue the most important trait that separates your friendly neighborhood superhero from your typical fantasy or sci-fi MMO character is having an alter ego.

Essentially, I’m creating two personalities — I have my superheroine, and then I have her secret identity that protects her friends and family from being murdered in their beds by her arch enemies, a second mild-mannered persona with which shes uses to disguise herself for the purposes of fighting crime. Along with that, I need a kick-ass origin story. The more traumatic, and the more freak accidents or tragic events involved the better.

At least, that’s how it should work in theory. However, I created my Champions Online character Red Gazelle waaaaaay before I had the chance to really ponder the nature of this duality, or read this post on Blue Kae’s blog that made me consider the many ways a character can take shape in a player’s mind. For him, it happens one of two ways: 1) either he has an idea for a name before building a costume and powers around it, or 2) he has a costume in mind that suggests a certain power build and a name.

Number 2) probably best describes the way I came up with Red Gazelle, but what is probably closer to reality is that I blundered around the character creator messing about with the myriad options before I settled on a look I liked. Anyway, I don’t have an alter ego and I don’t have a backstory, but I am slowly trying to remedy that. I want to gradually build up the RP elements and add depth to my character, and sometimes you just have to do it as you go along.

I ran into a challenge almost right away. When it came to choosing a fast travel power, I saw what was available to me at the time and immediately chose Flight. What can I say? I like being able to travel up vertically as I please and to fly down from great heights without hurting myself. And it doesn’t matter if it’s slower; being able to float over obstacles instead of having to go around is very psychologically gratifying for me. It was working out quite well, until the guilt started chafing me at the back of my mind.

You see, in wanting to develop a good RP background and story for the Red Gazelle, I also wanted to do a good job of it. I wanted the whole picture, and I knew I couldn’t achieve this by throwing a bunch of costume pieces and random powers together, even when it’s a convenient one like Flight. I’m a “I-want-a-travel-power-to-match-the-kind-of-hero-I-am” kind of player, and so you see the reason behind my bad conscience — gazelles don’t freaking fly.

In the end, I replaced Flight with Super Speed which suited my character better, even though it’s a little less efficient especially in the urban jungle that is Millennium City with its many looming buildings and twisting alleyways. It’s strange, though; while I did sacrifice some convenience for the sake of roleplay, at the same time there is just something so wonderful about having that choice to make in the first place. It was strangely encouraging, and somehow increased my appreciation for CO. There is great fun and pride in seeing your character and his or her story evolve over time, and I look forward to discovering more of this game.

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Champions Online: Free Ass-Kicking For All In Millennium City

January 26, 2011

This week, I return to the world of MMO gaming with a vengeance — I know I said I was going to play the crap out of Rift beta 5, but still I found some time last night to download the new Champions Online free-to-play client.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my old character still there, waiting for me at the character screen. It’s been a little more than a year since I created her, but I can still remember the process clear as day. I’m a huge Marvel fangirl, so not surprisingly, I drew a lot of inspiration from the comics. Jessica Drew the Spider-Woman is one of my personal favorites, so giving my character her good looks and long beautiful black hair was a no-brainer. Combat-wise, I couldn’t stop thinking about Elektra, but instead of a couple of sai I’d opted to let her wield a Samurai sword instead.

If you’ve ever played a Cryptic game, you’d know that creating a character is always fun as hell, and Champions is no exception. I can’t say I remember exactly how it all happened, but my character ended up with a banded red skintight jumpsuit and a couple of horns. Now, Matt Murdock might be able to get away with running around town looking like the devil, but um, how should I put this? For my heroine, I wanted something a little less…demonic?

Hey, nothing like slapping a cutesy animal name on her can’t fix. Meet the Red Gazelle:

Not long after I logged in, I met up with my good friend Blue Kae who was also checking out CO at the time. He came up to greet Red Gazelle with his character — get this — named Blue Ram. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

We partnered up to form, um…Team Ungulates? The Bovidae Duo? Something tells me even if I brush up on my mammalian taxonomic classifications ’til the cows come home (oh my God, I slay myself sometimes), I’ll still never be able to come up with a good-sounding name for these two.

I’ve played CO in the past, but I didn’t stay with it very long — that decision didn’t really have anything to do with the actual gameplay, mind you…just, you know, it gets a little hard to play when the client crashes your computer every five minutes. Not really the game’s fault, but I never did get the chance to go back even after I bought a new PC last year.

Kae was a good teacher, and I happily played Robin to his Batman while he took me around Millennium City and helped get me reacquainted with the game again. It’s clearly a fun MMO, and depending on how it goes, I may decide to sub for the month of February just to get my hands on all the good stuff Gold members get. I’d hate to miss out on the chance to fully customize my powers and abilities, which has been touted as one of the best features of the game, even if it’s just for a little while.

For the remainder of the night, Blue Ram and the Red Gazelle brought their own brand of justice to the streets of Millennium City — both above and below. Our cloven heroes even took to the sewers, rudely interrupting an evil crime syndicate meeting that was taking place in its smelly dark depths. I’m proud to say I did my part by getting in the way and making myself dead while Kae fought to kill the bad guys and save my useless ass. In other words, I was the perfect sidekick!

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Of Puppies And Finding Refuge In Single-Player Games Before The Onslaught Of The MMO Storm!

January 19, 2011

Question: Do you always play the games you buy? Because I know I don’t. Damn Steam and their sales. They are the worst at making me commit this travesty. Every holiday season they hook me in with dirt cheap prices and I end up with another half dozen games in my cart, all purchased with a “buy now, play later” mentality. Except “later” becomes weeks and stretches into months until they become all but forgotten, sitting in your games library gathering the proverbial dust, all loaded and installed with nowhere to go.

Part of the problem is the MMOs I play. It almost goes without saying, when you play an MMO you’re committed to it for the long haul. At the very least, if you’re paying a sub you want to be getting the most out of your month. I fit in a single-player game every now and then, but that’s time usually made for new releases that I go out of the way to pay full price for at the store the day it comes out. It’s rare that I can find time for those other games relegated to the “later” pile.

Sometimes it takes some personal changes in your life to break the pattern. You see, I haven’t touched a single MMO in almost three weeks, with the exception of the Rift beta weekend — no World of Warcraft, no Star Trek Online, not even free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online.

Remember a week and a half ago, I mentioned getting a new puppy? Don’t let her face fool you, Mara is a little devil. Her type of coloring, a rich true red all over like that of an Irish Setter, is called “ruby.” The breeder told us there is a myth, that as in the world of humans, many owners of ruby Cavalier King Charles spaniels say these red-heads are more volatile, wild and fun to live with. I’m beginning to question whether or not this is really a “myth” at all. Mara the rambunctious little hellion constantly needs watching — every single hour, if she’s not needing to be taken out, she’s either escaping her puppy pen or trying to chew something she’s not supposed to.

Moral of the story? I can only play games with a big fat pause button. MMOs are out of the question, as there is nothing more embarrassing than having to sit back down to a wiped group, trying to explain “Sorry for going AFK guys, dog got into the laundry hamper and was trying to eat my panties.”

This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, to tackle those single-player games in my Steam library — games that include titles like The Witcher, Bully, and Bioshock 2…games that I actually really want to play. The puppy’s going to settle down sooner or later (GOOD GOD I sure hope so) and this lull could be my only chance before the MMOs take over my life again with a vengeance:

January 25: Rift Beta #5 – Battle of the Ascended, and Champions Online goes free-to-play. January 29: STO returns with Featured Episode Series 3 (I. Can’t. Wait.)

February 24: Rift head-start access for those who’ve preordered.

March…geez, do I really need to go into it again? March is full of goodies; apart from Rift releasing for real, I’m also heading out to PAX East, and my nose should be buried deep in the new Star Wars: The Old Republic novel by the end of the month. And with luck (though quite honestly, I’m not holding  my breath), SWTOR will come out late spring or early summer, and then it’ll be all over from there.

This is the calm before the storm for me (well, as calm as things can be with a 3-month-old puppy nipping at my heels everywhere I go), and if I don’t start making a dent in that to-play list now, I’ll likely not have another chance until summer.

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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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