Posts Tagged ‘Graphics’

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STO: Into The Coliseum

February 28, 2011

Out of my way, fool.

Star Trek fans, be sure to have an extra pair of underwear close at hand because the latest Star Trek Online feature episode is nothing short of nerdgasm-inducing. And fans of the Original Series, you might want to have two pairs handy.

Time to take a break from all the Rift posts with my review of “Coliseum.” And what can I say? Wow. Just, wow. I have a lot to talk about, but the hard part is figuring out how to do it without coming across like a raving fangirl. Fact is, it is not in my nature to squee and fawn unless something is very, very good and extremely well done — which I think applies to this particular FE. I’m going to echo what Tipa has already stated in her write-up — this episode is truly epic.

Note: Spoilers in the text and screenshots.

Surprise, surprise — this latest mission does not start at Admiral T’Nae. Instead, it is Obisek’s scarred visage that pops up on your screen, asking for help, no less. The nerve! Seems one of his ships carrying a load of thalaron weapons through the Nopada system has disappeared. His only bargaining chip was simply, “If you didn’t like the idea of thalaron weapons in the hands of a loonybin like me, you would like them much less in the hands of an even bigger loonybin like Hakeev now, wouldn’t you?”

ARRGH!!! This is why you don’t let crazy ass Remans run free to do as they please! I should have attempted to arrest him when I had the chance, especially since the decision to do so or not to do so turned out to make no effing difference in the end.

Skip ahead to the Nopada system because I’m a tool and I’ve agreed to help Obisek find his missing ship. There, I find nothing but derelict hulks and a mysterious satellite. And whaddya know, it’s a trap! At this point, I was going through the motions, thinking this was just gonna be another one of those missions where I’ll have to run around activating glowy consoles and pressing buttons until I find a way to escape.

Well, I discovered it was that and more. Math? MATH, CRYPTIC?! Why do you hate me? But thanks to my overbearing mother and her forcing me to go through five years of Kumon in my youth, however, I was set, calculators and pencils be damned. After you work out which number corresponds to each letter, all it takes is to go through A, B, C, and D sliding the numbers left or right until they show the correct value.

After that, make sure you explore every nook and cranny of the small facility. You’ll need to somehow set the satellite to expand its scanners far enough to pick up the derelict hulk, using it to redirect focus away from your ship, and then you’ll need to dial down the power settings to allow yourself to get away. The information takes a bit of digesting, but the key is to know where all your consoles are to do your fiddling, so be sure to note them on your map.

So by now I admit I was feeling a little indifferent, expecting myself to beam back to my ship and be ambushed with a space fight or something. I thought, “Typical.”

Instead, BAM! I found myself behind bars in the next scene. I did not see that one coming. Not sure if it was intended, but way to go Cryptic for luring me into a false sense of impassivity. This was probably the biggest twist I have ever experienced in an FE, and I love it!

And what made it even better, was when the doors opened, and I realized…I get to fight? Oh my God, I get to fight! No pressing any buttons, no scanning any objects, no running around trying to be diplomatic. I. GET. TO. KILL. STUFF. Now THIS is T’Androma’s kind of mission! Just your good old-fashioned, straightforward gladiatorial skirmish with fantastical creatures in an open coliseum.

Ladies and gentlemen, choose your weapons. Take ’em all if you want, but it’s the Lirpa for me. As if I would choose anything else.

As a proud owner of a little Sehlat cub of my own, I really should be feeling bad about this. But that's the way of the arena! Sorry Fluffy!

And all the while, I’m going dun-dun-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DUN-dun-dun-DUN-DUN! in time to the music. Because everyone knows, of course, that the Amok Time song is the greatest fight music EVER. I laughed, because it seems that after almost a year, my wishes were finally answered. That was before I got into Star Trek. Sigh, how utterly ignorant and sad I was then.

Are you enjoying yourself? When do you think we'll get to go again?

The fun was over way too soon. Before long, T’Andy was herded back into her cage, where she had the opportunity to talk to the Reman slave who fought beside her the coliseum. “I tire of this life,” he moaned. “I can’t go on much longer.” “The lights are too damn bright.” Whine whine whine, bitch bitch bitch. It took every ounce of self control not to bite this guy’s head off and call him names, insult his manhood or imply he’s a psychopath. Seriously, Slamek, the joys of the arena are wasted on you and blubbering wussies like you.

But no, T’Andy had to  be diplomatic to get through this. Guess you can’t always have it all.

With much reluctance, T’Andy finally agreed to escape with him. At this point, I thought Cryptic would throw in a few objectives related to subterfuge or evasion. Surely, after all that fighting, they’ll make us sneak around some.

I could not have been more wrong, and boy am I glad for that:

Deworming.

Beating the Aehallh Worm in the coliseum shouldn’t be too difficult. If you find you are getting low on health, there are regenerative spores around the place you can “activate” to heal yourself. Run around to avoid the corrosive spit, beat down the tentacles, activate the turret system, simple as that. Letting you free the other prisoners to help you fight was also a welcome touch; I thought it added nicely to the frantic atmosphere.

By now, it feels like I’ve been playing this mission for a long time, and certainly it has already been twice as long as some of the previous FEs in the past. But it ain’t over yet! T’Andy and Slamek may have escaped their prison, but they still have to escape the desert. I was surprised there was still more to the story, but this is the most fun I’ve ever had in any STO mission, period, so I wasn’t complaining in the least.

Of course, it wasn’t enough just to be whiny and annoying, Slamek had to be an incompetent burden too. Wounded by the worm in the arena and poisoned by its venom, my Reman companion wasn’t going to make it unless he received immediate medical attention. If it were up to T’Andy, she would have let him die, but Starfleet has a pesky tendency to find out about these things, and if her churlish ways ever got back to the Admiral she would have my Vulcan ass on a silver platter.

Scorpions overhead!

The landscape, however, was absolutely breathtaking. As I gathered up the herbs for Slamek’s injuries while dodging the ranging Scorpions overhead, I couldn’t help but admire the desert scenery in the beautiful light of the silver moon. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else like this in STO. The environment was simply gorgeous. And huge. Thank God in one of the game’s previous updates they gave us a longer duration sprint.

Okay, now I have to spend the night with Slamek? Are you seriously saddling me with this pathetic creature, Cryptic? It’s like being haunted by a ghoul. Will the torture never end?!

Curse you, Slamek! Your fugly presence is totally ruining my glamour shoot!

Sigh. Just don’t get fresh with me, okay, Slamek? Or I swear, my boyfriend will come and nerve pinch you.

Here, T’Andy’s tactical training background required her to collect wood for a fire. Play with other classes in the group to collect all the accolades! Afterward, I thought surely the night in the cave must mean this episode was coming to an end…but there was still one more scene. Somewhere deep down I was starting to think this was getting a little ridiculous, but then I saw the marvelous view of the crashed Reman ship and promptly told that part of me to shut up. Again, the graphics and the design of the tableau was of a caliber I have not seen before in STO.

She's seen better days...

Just a few more objectives requiring me to send my signal to my ship, and T’Andy was almost home free. But then BAM! cutscene again. I was laughing out loud by the end, because I was having all these nasty thoughts about Slamek the whole time…and in the end it turned out I was right not to trust him. Traitorous bastard. Now that one I actually did see coming.

Why he went through all that just to sell me out though, I still have no idea. But the look on Hakeev’s face when I made my last minute getaway was funny enough to make me set aside all my questions. Silly villains. Y’all need to take a page from T’Andy’s book — shoot first, talk later.

Dammit. I knew I should have let the worms eat you out there, Slamek.

Days after playing this episode, I am still geeking out over it. My only concern about it is the fact it makes the rest of the game look less good, if that makes any sense. No wonder they are planning on going back to revamp past missions; I feel the chasm of difference between the old content and the new would be too great otherwise. Not only do I feel “Coliseum” is the best episode so far in the arc, I’d probably go as far as to say this was the best FE released to date. Hell, best mission the the game, even. Bar none.

This is now my favorite episode, and I have to say playing it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in STO. And it’s not just because I got to wreak all kinds of destruction in my wake. This episode must have been a massive undertaking — to write, to direct, to produce. It had everything, from the engaging script to the cinematic cutscenes with dramatic camera angles (especially with Hakeev at the end). Beautiful environments and music appropriate to the atmosphere. Extraordinary creatures, big and small. Lots of things that have never been seen before. There was also humor, suspense, excitement. Combat, problem solving, diplomacy. The whole mission was like a buffet table generously laid out by Cryptic, encouraging you to sample the best bits of everything.

Finally, in “Colisium”, I also see a labor of love, a devotion to Star Trek and a clear commitment to its fans to bring us the Trek elements we know and love. I’ve glimpsed this in other parts of STO, but here in this particular episode, it really shines.

Seriously, whoever came up with the idea for this mission deserves a raise. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next Saturday. It’s the series finale!

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Postcards From Telara: Falling For You

January 10, 2011

Something I realized this weekend — for a whole week before that, I did zero gaming. None at all. You see, on New Year’s Day, we welcomed another dog into our home, and I would have made a quick post about it the same way I did for our first pup, if only she would stay still long enough for me to snap a picture. The new girl’s got a sweet side but she’s also a hellion, which makes her a handful and a half. So it’s no wonder that when I finally came upon some free time this weekend, I latched onto Rift’s fourth beta event like a frightened child clinging on to her tattered, spit-soaked security blanket.

Even so, I didn’t get to see nearly as much as I’d wanted. Beta 4 was filled with a ton of goodies, including Warfronts, the zones Stonefield and Gloamwood available for play, and a new beta level cap. I didn’t quite make it there, though I managed to fit in a Warfront or two, but only got to see Stonefield. I don’t know what it is, but there is an aura about that place that somehow reminds me of Age of Conan. When I was in game, @Longasc pointed out its alikeness to Conall’s Valley, and though I can see that, I think for me it was a little like reliving Gateway to Khitai instead.

Thinking about AoC reminded me of the travelogue type posts I used to do for that game, after being inspired by the gorgeous graphics and environment. Well, Rift’s no slouch in that department either. I didn’t dare take any screenshots when the NDA was effect, not even for my own personal use (it was quite a scary and comprehensive EULA), but after it was lifted, I went nuts. The world of Rift is truly quite beautiful, and what I really want is to let the pictures do more of the talking.

As you know, I’m more of a PvE kinda girl, and that’s where my focus was on for this beta. Not being much of a PvP fan, I don’t think I’m in a position to comment extensively about balance, but I will say that the couple of Warfronts I tried were a lot of fun, and every time we the Defiants were victorious. Most of my time was spent questing and rifting in Stonefield, a zone that’s much bigger than I expected, and they’ve managed to pack a lot into this area. As before, the quests are organized in a way that will take you through the place in a set and very systematic manner, which might negatively affect “off the beaten track” exploring if your interest is questing.

But certainly, nothing can keep you from traveling all over to enjoy the scenery…well, except maybe the hordes of elite invaders pouring from multiple incursions all across the zone. These can get a little out of hand, and it’s quite irritating to keep coming back to a quest hub to see it entirely swallowed up by mobs and the player numbers are too few to do anything about it. This led to a fair bit of finger-drumming while I waited for the invasions to be over to turn in my quests and pick up new ones, but I’m hopeful that this is something that can be balanced, and if anything, these crazy invasions are making the rift events more interesting.

I’d wondered during past beta events how Trion will be able to keep up their appeal, and it seems full-zone scale events and zone bosses are the answer. I would like to see more. I just can’t put how I felt into words, seeing the dynamic events unfold as multiple raids formed across Stonefield, then watching as the groups traveled all over zone working together to complete the objectives. Finally, everyone came together to take down the colossus Oacris the Awakened.

I continue to be amazed by the quality of Rift. It’s by no means perfect or bug-free, but it’s far better off than a great number of MMOs when they were at this stage, and hell, even some that are already released. Rift is really growing on me, just like a damn Train song, and it’s not just because I tested the crap out of the beta this weekend. If you think about it, we’ve only gotten to spend a relatively short time with the game so far, but already Rift feels like the boy next door I’ve known for years, and I’m slowly but surely starting to fall for him.

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The 5-Inhabitants-For-The-Price-Of-One-Update Deal!

November 26, 2010

Hey, good lookin'!

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, I wasn’t surprised to see a modest update from Star Wars: The Old Republic today. Hey, it’s Black Friday, Bioware devs need to shop too. And I’m sure there are a lot of gamers like me as well, too busy spending time with their loved ones and sleeping off the turkey overload. I don’t know what my husband was thinking, getting a bird big enough to feed a small village.

Anyway, five new entries were added to the Inhabitants page this morning — the Terentatek, the Vine Cat, the Sith Pureblood, the M3-M1 Medical Droid, and the S3-F5 Inclement Condition Probe. Okay, keeping track of those droids and their letter and number designations is going to be the death of me.

Nothing too extravagant, but wow, if you have time, check out some of the new screenshots. I remember a time when I was less than impressed with the graphics and models. Back then, folks were still saying, “Relax, just give Bioware time to work on things.” I didn’t doubt improvements were going to be made, but at the same time, I don’t think I expected such a stark difference between the “Before” and “After” either. Compared to some of the older material we’ve seen, it almost looks like a whole different game.

I for one really love the new stuff about the Sith Pureblood. Almost makes me want to change my mind about rolling a Bounty Hunter and roll a Sith Warrior instead, so I can look all badass with my red lightsaber like buddy there in the screenshot. Almost.