Posts Tagged ‘Space Combat’

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STO: Keeping Things Warm In Cold Storage

September 27, 2010

What do you do when you arrive to find the Breen and the True Way beating the crap out of each other? You join in, of course.

Once again we take this lovely Monday to look at the latest Star Trek Online featured weekly episode, which by the way I had the pleasure of experiencing on Advanced Difficulty with my fleet of brave Federation News Service correspondents — Longasc, Thomas, Thumupp and Tipa (who has written a very comprehensive account of the mission this week as well).

More on how that turned out later. First, I can’t believe it’s been five weeks already. What is it they say, that time flies when you’re having fun? Anyway, what a ride this last month has been — I’ve encounter new species, new planets, and new technology. I’ve defended newfound allies, held off hostile enemies, and negotiated myself out of sticky situations. I’ve been unceremoniously blown up, knocked on my ass, and zapped by ice beams. It all came to a head on Saturday with “Cold Storage”, the final episode of the Breen story arc.

A tribute to TOS's "The Paradise Syndrome"

I knew it was coming — showdown at the lost Preserver archives! — but I still nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the giant obelisk. While this arc’s conclusion was somewhat predictable, I still have to appreciate these little homages they throw in to honor the various Star Trek episodes. I don’t think you have to be familiar with the shows to enjoy STO, but being able to spot these little touches do add to the game. Sure makes me glad I spent all those months devouring everything from the original series to Enterprise, or else I wonder how much would have gone over my head.

If we stay together, we survive.

Combat on this mission proved to be a formidable challenge. In space, I was just a sliver of health (at one point, just 2%!) away from being completely obliterated and only survived thanks to the concerted efforts of my fleetmates healing me. Still, my starship is an Escort, a flying tin can not known for being terribly sturdy, so admittedly being blown to smithereens (or close to it) isn’t so much of an irregular occurrence.

The difference was more noticeable on the ground, however. Apparently the Breen wised up, as evidenced by a new ability which appeared capable of one-shotting unsuspecting Federation officers. I’m not sure how much of it actually had to do with our group doing it on the advanced difficulty setting, since another member of or fleet doing this quest individually also noticed this happening.

Er...what tones?

In the underground passageways beneath the obelisk, we came upon a mini-game of sorts. Three consoles which supposedly would emit a tone when activated, and doing them in the right order based on sound would unlock the Archives proper.

Well, I couldn’t hear anything when I activated the first one. Granted, it could be my sound settings or the possibly the ambient noises in the room, but I know my hearing’s fine and I still wasn’t able to pick anything up even when I leaned into my speakers. I left the task to someone else who might have better luck hearing the tones, but regardless, there are only a handful of possible combinations to try, so getting into the final room shouldn’t be problem.

Anyway, you can never go wrong with a boss fight.

Wow, aren't you a big boy!

So, great episode and nice ending and all, but in the end what I loved best were the rewards — finally, a chance to be on the giving end of an ice beam for once with the CRM 200 ground weapon, and also a new Breen tactical bridge officer to call my own, whom I named “Pran”. I had to fire one of my other Boffs to make room for him, but it was worth it. High time for me to get rid of the freeloaders anyway.

Ice to see you! /lame joke

An interesting thought came to me as I was setting Pran up aboard the U.S.S. Taiga — might “special Boff” collecting become a new trend for STO players?

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STO: Cold Case Investigation

September 20, 2010

Members of the Federation News Service fleet gather around to ponder this discovery.

I got intimately familiar with the latest Star Trek Online feature episode “Cold Case” on Saturday, partly because it was one of those missions that was heavier on the story, but mostly because I had to do it twice — a consequence of getting invited into a group after the first objectives have already been initiated, though the quest log will still track your progress like you’ve completed it. Still, that meant I got to do it with my fleetmates the first run through, an experience I had been waiting for since the first weekly mission debuted. And on take two, I got to absorb the sights and sounds and enjoy the story at my own pace. Things worked out for the best.

The mission starts off with a familiar sight — the mysterious ruins on Defera with the strange puzzle that we encountered back in Episode 1: Cold Call. Back then, solving it did nothing, but doing so now reveals a star map piece, kicking off a hunt across the entire sector for more of them. This one felt like a longer mission than the others, possibly due to the many places you have to visit, not to mention all that time you spend hauling your crew from one side of the map to the other. Such as it is.


The fleet ambushed by enemy ships.

These weekly episodes are starting to become a lot of fun. At the end of every week, I find myself looking forward to my Saturday afternoons when I can log into STO again and check out what’s new. And I enjoy the conversations with my fleetmates and other players afterward, when we talk about what we liked, what we didn’t, and speculate on what STO has in store for us next.

I get what Cryptic is going for, delivering them in a manner that makes you feel like you’re experiencing an actual Star Trek episode as you play it, but what they’ve done for me is even more than that. They’ve managed to get me to anticipate these episodes the same way I actually would for a favorite TV show — clearing my schedule, settling in with a drink and getting comfy for the next hour, the whole shebang. Sure, I play STO mostly on weekends now, and while a pragmatic part of me thinks I should be putting more hours into a game I pay an active subscription for, no other MMO right now stirs me to that state of enthusiasm. Every week.

I plan on riding on this feeling for as long as possible.

It's like...Terrokar Forest in winter.


Oops, wrong turn.

Cryptic has managed to offer a good mix so far, each episode with its own unique flavor. The last two have not been quite as explosive as the first two that kicked off this story arc, even though this week’s certainly had its moments with its brief bouts of combat. That is not to say I wouldn’t welcome more of these “fact-finding” and “problem-solving” missions in the future, but I wouldn’t complain either if next week’s episode happened to have a little more kick to it. If nothing else, they have me curious as to how all this will end.

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STO: No One Left Out In The Cold

September 6, 2010

I really felt Cryptic had another winner on their hands this weekend when I did “Out in the Cold”, the new feature weekly Star Trek Online episode that debuted Saturday. As usual, I’ll direct your attention towards our Chief Editor Tipa’s Federation report for a more detailed account of the mission, but I also echo her thoughts that STO may finally be reaching its potential. Not to mention what a pleasant change it was to log in that afternoon to find fleet chat alive with animated conversation and excitement over the new episode, and to see some new faces (or names, rather?) and some returning ones as well.

From what I gather, the overall reception from the playerbase has been generally positive. I didn’t think anything could top the visual feast I received last week the moment I stepped foot on Defera for “Cold Call”, but I was wrong. But seriously, can anything truly prepare you for a comet tail in your face?

I wanna name her Dottie.

For a second there, scenes from Armageddon actually flashed before my eyes and I half expected Bruce Willis to come over the com to yell at me, “We’ve got a hole to dig up here!” but no. Instead, T’Androma and crew were thrown into a space battle amidst the gas and debris in the giant moving rock’s wake.

That’s beaucoup points for presentation.

Ka boom with a view!

Without giving too much away, I realized that while I was more compelled in “Cold Call” last week by its characters, story and its bit of mystery, I felt that this week’s episode’s forte is in its combat. Both in space and even when it’s on the ground, in underground tunnels that — *gasp* — actually look like underground tunnels, and not like some indoor motor speedway that can seat 200,000.

From the size of environments to the type of story people want, it’s as if the last six months of feedback has been heard and used to craft these weekly episodes. So far, Cryptic’s 2 for 2 in my mind, and if all goes well I’m not expecting the third installment arriving next week to disappoint me either. The real question is, can they keep it up?

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They’d Be Crazy To Follow Us, Wouldn’t They?

September 3, 2010

Today’s update from Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn’t reveal much more than we already know, but hey, if it’s anything space combat-related and gives me another chance to use a cheesy old Star Wars quote in the title, I’ll take it.

What’s nice is that a Game System section has been added, giving a general overview for Space Combat in the Holonet. One thing of note is that the mission types we’ll get in space are slowly starting to take shape — indeed, we’ll probably get to do some Han Solo style maneuvers through asteroid fields, beat the odds in a Luke-vs-the-Death-Star type showdowns, engage in some dogfighting, and even go on some escort missions (ugh, mind already picturing some not-so-pleasant scenarios involving lumbering capital ships).

I also thought the article was written in a way which makes it clear that the space combat component of SWTOR will be a tunnel-shooter mini-game. The emphasis on “lone starship”, and terms like making travel times “literally fly-by” and being put on a “direct course” say more than enough. It’s almost like Bioware’s realizing expectations for space combat were getting out of hand and they need to get more information out there, stat.

With the understanding that space combat is an optional, alternative single-player experience, I guess I was a little surprised to see the results in this poll. Things aren’t looking too positive as at the time of this writing, people who are happy with the feature still outnumber the ones who aren’t — but just barely.

I admit, my first reaction at seeing those numbers is an exasperated What the hell do people want?! On the other hand, even if I don’t exactly sympathize, I’m also starting to see for the first time the cause for all the dissatisfaction. Simply too much time was allowed for speculation and imaginations to run wild. As usual the policy of only talking about what is 100% ready to be shown proves to be a double-edged sword that can either work in your favor or blow up in your face. However, I certainly don’t agree with the vitriolic sentiment that Bioware brought this on themselves (/facepalm), and in fact if PAX is any indication, they’re out there listening to feedback (so long to the Jedi “Wizard”, hopefully?) and I’m hoping for some more substantial news to roll out this weekend.

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STO: You Can Cold Call Me Anytime

August 30, 2010

Last week was a pretty eventful week for me in Star Trek Online, having leveled to Vice Admiral just days after grinding my diplomacy experience to Attache rank. With this flurry of activity, also came a downside. I knew that soon after reaching both these goals, my interest in the game could very well wane again. For some reason, I’m faithful to a fault when it comes to my character in STO; all I want to do is work on T’Andy and I can’t bring myself to start an alt or a Klingon. But just as I was thinking of freezing my subscription (again), STO rolls out their feature weekly episodes.

See, I’m not always impressed by the improvements they add to STO. Sometimes, I even think the decisions they make over there are downright nutty. But I’ll give credit where credit’s due and I’m always grateful when Cryptic exceeds my expectations and comes out with something awesome. And the first ever feature weekly episode, “Cold Call” (detailed wonderfully over at West Karana), which debuted Saturday was an example.

Color me blown away.

“Cold Call” wasn’t a long mission by any means, but from beginning to end, I felt like I was part of something coherent. Like my fleetmate the Combat Archaeologist observed while we were in the in-game chat yesterday, it felt like being in an actual Star Trek episode in some ways, complete with all the ingredients of a great story:

A dash of diplomacy…

"Quick question, Ambassador -- anyone ever tell you your vessel looks like a Republic warship? Oh, you don't even know what that means? Never mind then."

A beautiful planet with an intriguing population…

Honestly, the most gorgeous place in the game by far. Right off the bat, it felt like a city that was full of life, with NPCs milling about and Deferi ships dotting the sky.

Like the financial district at lunch time.

Mix in a ruthless (but oftentimes humorous) foe in the form of the Breen…

Oh, they’re fun to fight too.

"Like the Romulans say, 'Never turn your back on a Breen!'"

Throw in a healthy dose of ground combat…

"And stay down!"

Add some space combat for flavor…

"Sorry, Defera, but I'm going to be leaving your orbit with more space junk."

Finish it off with just a hint of mystery…

"I solve a puzzle and then nothing? Illogical!"

And everything comes together to create this intense, plot-oriented experience. In theory, there was nothing new — still the same type of mission to escort, find and kill enemies, do some patrols…but I was surprised at what a difference the details of the weekly episode made. When all is said and done, it’s just another mission, but I had a great time with it and feel that the devs deserve a pat on the back and a huge thank you from me for all the effort put into its design. This is why I play STO, and why I’ll continue to play STO if the future weekly feature episodes are released at this caliber.

Well played, Cryptic, well played.

And while I’m showering the devs my appreciation, might as well thank them too  for my fluidic space tribble!

"Whoa, so fluidic that my brains are turning to mush."

Looking forward to “Episode 2: Out in the Cold” next week.

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You Came In That Thing?

August 20, 2010

A short space combat video was revealed earlier this week on the Star Wars: The Old Republic website, so it makes sense that they would tie the Friday update in to it as well. The new page “Starships” has been added to the Holonet (guess this also means more material for future updates) and currently only features the two classes that have already been confirmed: Corellian Defender (formerly the Vanguard?) for the Jedi Order, and the Fury-class for the Sith.

Presumably the other four ship slots that are still blanked out are the ones for the Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent classes, but based on the space combat trailer I think it’s possible to make informed guesses as to which one is for which. Ship models are apparently designed specifically to match the player class types, but as far as I know other than the cosmetic differences they’ll all function pretty much the same way. Keeping things fair and all that jazz.

A Fan Friday was also released, complete with a Developer Corner that reveals the names and some details of the remaining Advanced Classes. I concede I felt a little awkward reading through a couple of these. If anything is subject to change, I sure hope it’ll be some of the names.

Trooper: Commando and Vanguard
Smuggler: Scoundrel and Gunslinger
Jedi Knight: Jedi Sentinel and Jedi Guardian
Jedi Consular: Jedi Shadow and Jedi Wizard

Bounty Hunter: Powertech and Mercenary
Sith Warrior: Sith Juggernaut and Sith Marauder
Imperial Agent: Operative and Sniper
Sith Inquisitor: Sith Sorcerer and Sith Assassin

Eep, “Jedi Wizard”? Really, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I just take comfort in the fact that at least both Advanced Classes for the Bounty Hunter sound respectable.

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Now Let’s Blow This Thing And Go Home

August 18, 2010

Yesterday a new Star Wars: The Old Republic space combat video was released as a special for Gamescom 2010. Short as it was, I was very excited when I saw it.

I was also able to pick up the latest issue of PC Gamer yesterday which features space combat in SWTOR, so I wanted to wait until I had the opportunity to peruse it before I put my thoughts together. It was nice having some reading material to go with the awesome imagery from the new trailer, because in a way the footage and the new article complemented each other very well. Like sources have already confirmed, space combat can be described as a “tunnel shooter”, but damn…being on rails has never looked and felt so good.

There are several things I took from the PC Gamer article. First is that while space combat is an important and anticipated feature in SWTOR, gameplay is likely to be a heavily directed and controlled experience. Second is that for better or worse, Bioware is taking space combat in very specific direction, and that is to capture the most iconic and memorable space action moments from the movies and somehow recreate them in their own way for the game, so I would be expecting to do some trench runs and asteroid dodging.

My gut feeling is that the devs have a very good idea of what they want players to see and feel while they are experiencing space combat, and presumably utilizing things like “hot spots”, cinematics and a “tunnel shooter” style is their way of strongly steering us towards all of that.  After thinking about it, I realized I don’t have much of a problem with this. So space combat isn’t going to entail a “fly-anywhere-you-want” type of gameplay, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done well or won’t be fun. In fact, I’m more comfortable with the fact that Bioware appears to have a clear direction in which they want to take space combat, as well as concrete goals they seem to be actively pursuing. Despite all the information we’ve gotten on space combat in the recent weeks, I still get the feeling that Bioware is being really careful when it comes to the topic; it’s a fine line between feeding the hype and releasing what they know they can deliver.

In any case, I think they have been pretty transparent with what they have revealed so far. On rails or not, I would rather have a polished space experience at launch complete with well-defined objectives than a half-assed, muddled end product that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, which might be the case if they were trying to please everybody. I’m certainly not trying to appease people who are still less than impressed by SWTOR’s space combat, but what I saw from the video did indicate to me how much care and work must have been put into it — everything from the ship movements, visuals, sound effects, voice work, music, etc. A part of me does kinda hope that the quality of the trailer might have at least lifted the spirits of some of those who were disappointed before.

Another thing I realized after reading the PC Gamer piece was that there is a lot of potential for space combat. All throughout the entire article was a sense of hope and suggestion that what we get at launch will continue to be a work-in-progress that may one day contain more aspects of space combat, perhaps features like difficulty levels, PvP and co-op gameplay or even missions in space that would affect players on the ground. The positive angle makes me think that people who maybe aren’t so happy with space combat right now can look forward to future possibilities.

There’s more to the article, but it would be too much to go into the finer details. A few things I do want to mention is that there are plenty of nice images (some that are very similar to what we see in the trailer) and a lot of interesting speculations, such as mission types and ship classes. Related to the latter, I noticed at least six different models of ships in the video and recognized the two that were confirmed (Corellian Vanguard-class for Jedi Knights and Consulars, Fury-class imperial for Sith Warriors and Inquisitors).

One last thing is that there was also an offhand comparison to the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games when describing the gameplay. After watching the video I can definitely see that. Gotta say, I loved that game back in the day when I played it on the N64…just please, all I ask is leave out the repetitive, irritating “Rogue Squadron, where’s our cover?!?!” type dialogue, which quite possibly was the most annoying video game line of all time.

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