Archive for the ‘Star Trek Online’ Category
I know what you’re thinking: What? Similarities between Star Trek Online and The Secret World? Hey, they’re both fiction, and you’ll find element of everything in everything else if you look hard enough. What, truly, in this world is original? It’s not so much that we use these assets, it’s how we use them that make these stories great.
So, as Richard Sonnac would say when imitating his (probably) favorite British actor, “Engage!”
5) The Weapons: Swords, Dual Pistols, and Flamethrowers
I feel like some of these really shouldn’t be in these games. Star Trek has a flamethrower?! The Secret World, with it’s shotguns and assault rifles has swords?! And dual pistol wielding classes are everywhere these days, so why not, I guess.
Human-like machines capable of performing tasks. In Star Trek, they’ve been given quite a few more personal rights than we see in The Secret World, but in Star Trek mythos, the advanced programming of Androids borders on conscious thought, and in one of the greatest episodes of Star Trek, Next Generation: The Measure of a Man, the court rules in favor that Data, an Android, does indeed have rights and benefits of any other sentient being. If there’s one great takeaway from Star Trek, it’s that you should fight for your rights, and fighting is the right thing to do, be it Android, Hologram, or Klingon, our rights are one of the greatest gifts we hold dear.
3) Portal Transportation
Entering a portal on one side of the world and suddenly being thousands of miles away. There isn’t any teleporting in The Secret World yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it made an appearance at some point (that Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is rather tricky). On the Star Trek side, we have wormholes. Stellar phenomena that link two points in space over vast distances. In The Secret World, we have the portals, linking many different points in the world to the mythical Agartha.
2) Time Travel
It wouldn’t be Star Trek without some time travel. Though the Department of Temporal Investigations tries to keep all altering of the timeline to a minimum, shenanigans still happen. My favorite Star Trek time travel episode: Deep Space 9’s Trials and Tribble-ations. Hands down. Not a lot of gravitas, and the episode leans on the side of humor, but boy is that episode candy to a Star Trek fan. In STO, time travel also occurs quite frequently. One of my favorites is the mission Everything Old is New, part of the Devidian Featured Episode series. In Secret World, time travel happens quite a lot less, except in the Last Train to Cairo, Indiana Jones styled missions. The mission A Time To Every Purpose sends the player back in time to recover an artifact for the ever stylish Said, and starts the player on a pretty kick-ass journey through time to prevent another Tokyo disaster.
I thought I would never see this in The Secret World, but again taking a page from Star Trek’s futuristic books, the Council of Venice creates a series of, well, Holodecks. You use them in the game’s latest Scenarios to provide extra training and ways to augment your own abilities. So in TSW, they’re not used as a way of relaxing, but I’m sure the Council, when they have a few minutes, might program in a Jamaican vacation or two when the boss isn’t looking. I know I would.
In the realm of fantasy, nothing is absurd. Sometimes, it’s great to let our willing suspension of disbelief have free reign.
Do you think I missed any? I’m sure I did.
P.S. – Whoops, I missed a day of Listmas. Bah humbug.
This is why Free-To-Play is my model of choice. It’s not because I can’t afford to pay a subscription, it’s simply because, when not confined by a subscription, the onus of quality and pulling players in falls onto the developers. This leads to events, and lots of them.
For the past month I’ve been ping-ponging between The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, and Star Trek Online because of these events. Guild Wars 2, of course, has it’s content flowing continuously with something new every 2 weeks. However, not being max level, most of the new content is not aimed at me. So Guild Wars 2 has fallen by the wayside to make way for the following:
- The Secret World’s Whispering Tide – The path to Issue #8, The Venetian Agenda, and the prelude to the opening of the new Tokyo region. It looks like Phase 3 is ramping up TODAY as per tweets from Richard Sonnac seem to imply.
- Star Trek Online’s Crystalline Cataclysm Event – Our favorite giant, destructive snowflake is back and asking for a beating. In this 10-man instance, the Tholians have suddenly showed an interest in the Crystalline Entity, possibly being due to their species being of similar composition. The Tholians, though, are bad news, and as such, they all need a good whooping. Until October 21st (according to the game launcher), a daily beating of the entity gives a metric ton of Tholian marks, and a 50,000 dilithium pot.
- StarbaseUGC’s Purity Foundry Series – Part Two of the Purity Series, Purity: Of Thought by Bazag, has already been released, and it adds a decent amount of back-story to the Obani, Federation, and Sajan people.
And then you know what’s coming up, don’t you? The Superbowl of MMO Events: Halloween.
Guild Wars 2 is looking like it’s kicking it’s usual Halloween event up a notch, which seems impossible as it was already at 11. This year, instead of the event simply focused around the Mad King, instead we will be seeing Prince Edrick take center stage in the “Blood and Madness” event. I’m seriously excited to try the Clocktower jumping puzzle, and even if you’re not max level, it sounds like there will still be plenty to do.
The Secret World is also kicking their Halloween celebration up a notch by bringing back the Cat God event from last year, which is going to be new to me, but then adding on something that sounds amazing: Stories from Soloman Island. Soloman Island is one of my favorite MMO locations ever, competing with LotRO’s The Shire for top spot, so I CAN NOT WAIT to check this out.
I like to try new games, but I don’t think I’ll be able to leave the grasp of these events for quite a while.
This is for you, Syl… and you as well, Jeromai.
For your reading pleasure, here is a collection of MMO haiku, made up on the spot. Random, creative, MMO-based poetry goodness. If you’re feeling creative as well, how about starting up your own site, or joining up with other writers? It’s not as hard as you might think. Enjoy.
Fiction or Real Life?
Friends we meet in game are real.
I level crafting,
but can’t make good leveled gear!
Why is this useless?!
Knights, Templars, Castles.
The sword was overpowered.
Still true to this day.
“Hey! Big bad boss guy!
Look at my big armored butt!
… Whoops… I lost aggro.”
“Captain, it’s the Borg!”
“My tribble is in the bank.”
The Bad-Ass Templars,
I love Guild Wars 2.
It’s like walking through fine art,
with mass violence.
One more special mark,
until I’m finally done!
Wait… there is more grind?!
I spent most of this past week playing Star Trek Online and trying out a couple Foundry missions, notably StarbaseUGC’s first “Featured Episode” weekly series mission, Purity: Of Denial. Star Trek Online is a game I love coming back to for a couple days, grinding a bit, and then going to play something else. Not that STO can’t keep my attention, but at max level, aside from creating new characters on other factions, you primarily just grind and grind and grind.
This is what STO uses as a means of max-level horizontal content, though, so I do find this method more attractive than, say, dungeon raiding. It is quite a grind, but I can still log on, do a few missions, and still advance myself or my fleet. Progress is still made every single time I log into the game, and that’s the best kind of max-level content. One that still rewards you for your efforts, even if it’s not with more levels.
But first, before I go into my review of Purity, I want to talk about the post’s title image. Mark Valentine, aka h2orat, is the talented artist behind the videos Star Trek Online used, most notably the one above. I mean, look at that. How epic is that?! I’ve played STO for years and I never remember it looking and feeling that intense. Maybe just in my mind it feels that intense, but he captures that epic feeling. Mark also is a noted Foundry author, and his mission The Rising Phoenix – Part One, is currently on the list of Featured Foundry Missions, with a very high rating.
Mark Valentine recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, and the above monument is an in-game tribute to his legacy. Cryptic didn’t advertise that it was going to be there, it just silently appeared after a quick patch yesterday. The plaque on the monument reads “To Absent Friends” with the monument itself hosting an eternal flame, looking out over San Francisco Bay. The monument is quite touching and floored me when I first saw it. A great tribute to a great person. Thank you, Cryptic.
Purity: Of Denial
The story of the first featured Foundry episode, and I’m assuming, the series as a whole, starts it’s focus as one that we can fully understand today: Resources. In today’s world, oil prices are through the roof. I remember when I was in high school, the price of gas was under $1.00 per gallon (which makes me sound a lot older than I really am), and I will probably never see prices under $3 again in my lifetime. Oil exports have turned the tiniest of countrys wealthy beyond compare, and wars have been fought over the coveted substance. Well, what do you think? That starships just power themselves? Oh no, that power has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is dilithium.
Your ship is sent to investigate the relationship between the Obani people and the Starfleet personnel in the Megara system, and once you start investigating, the hailed story of First Contact between the Obani and the Federation starts to unravel quickly.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I want to say that I really liked the episode. I have previously posted some criteria of what I believe makes a decent Foundry mission, and this held up to most of these tenets. The story was great, the reason for being there was believable, and the space and ground maps were very detailed and well made.
My only issues with the mission, and this doesn’t just apply to this mission, but a trend in Star Trek Online Foundry missions in general, is one of time and character. First, the mission took me approximately 75 minutes to complete. For a casual gamer like myself, this feels like a marathon. I mean, when an STF mission runs, at most, 15 to 20 minutes, and a Star Trek episode itself is only 45 minutes, 75 minutes might as well be a full-featured movie. Now, true, I read everything, and if I did not, I could probably just fly through this mission, but that’s not cool. The author’s intentions for these missions is story-focused, and so they should be played as such.
The other trend I notice in Foundry missions, including this one, is when these characters I have created, my Captain and the crew, have their personalities hijacked for the use of the author. I get it, one of the greatest parts of Star Trek is the characterization of not just the Captain, but their crew and how they interact. But really, making my bridge officers flip off the handle and act with insubordination is not how I picture them. Many author’s use this method as opposed to putting words directly into your Captain’s mouth, but still, the actions of my crew in reaction to events in the story don’t really match up, and this pulls away from my immersion.
Overall, though, these are only slight issues. The story, though long, is very detailed and communicated well. I gave the mission a full 5 stars and think it is a very good start to StarbaseUGC‘s “Featured Episode” story. The 2880 dilithium reward for doing the mission certainly didn’t hurt, either.
The end of the mission came, in true Star Trek fashion, at the worst possible moment: after the order is given to abandon ship. As the player runs for the shuttlepods, of course it has to end with:
To Be Continued…
P.S. – Also released now is a side-mission to be played alongside (or after) this mission and is called Purity: Of The Day, a shorter mission of escorting freighter groups. I think there’s a trend to these naming patterns, but I’m not sure… :P
Happy October all!
October is a great time of year, one of my favorite months. The leaves are turning colors, pumpkin beers start lining the shelves, and the smell of campfires fill the air. It’s that fantastic time of year where I can have my windows open at home and not need the air conditioning or the heat, and all that is needed to stave off the cold on chilly mornings is a light longsleeve shirt.
It’s a great time of year to be a gamer, too. Game companies start ramping up for the holiday season, and with humanity’s retreat back indoors, content for our games is released like crazy to draw our attention their way. I remember back when I played World of Warcraft I took many breaks from the game, but when I returned, seeing the Halloween event in full-swing was common.
It’s hard to argue that the holiday that really starts the tide of content is Halloween. Lord of the Rings Online’s Haunted Burrow will most like be making a comeback, ArenaNet considers Halloween to be the biggest event of the year and always goes all out with the Mad King, WoW celebrates with candy, costumes, and headless bosses, STO releases the creepy episode Hearts and Minds, and the list goes on.
But this year, starting TODAY, October 1st, there are two big events that I want to make you all aware of and point you towards: The Newbie Blogger Initiative 2, the second coming of the event that launched a thousand blogs, and StarbaseUGC’s Star Trek Online Foundry Featured Episode Series, Purity!
Newbie Blogger Initiative 2
The Newbie Blogger Initiative, or NBI, for short, is something that I hold dear, namely because it was what gave me the boost I needed to get me from being just a casual gamer, to being just a casual blogger. I kid, but as far as new experiences go, this one has been pretty awesome. The NBI opened me up to the larger game blogging community, has improved my writing and communication skills, has opened me up to new experiences, and has given me a new angle to view these games we play from. The prolific Syp gave us 2012 NBI Vets a headstart on blogging, a shot of eyeballs and advice, and now the favor is being passed forward.
A new Newbie Blogger Initiative officially starts today and will last all of October! This time around, Doone from T.R. Red Skies and Roger from Contains Moderate Peril have taken the reins, opened up a set of forums for new bloggers, and already the sponsors are lining up to offer their sage wisdom. At last count, 28 different game blog writers, with experience ranging from game development to professional writing to podcasting to being able to awesomely coordinate outfits and kick ass while doing so, have all thrown their epic head slot armors into the NBI 2013 ring.
So if you are on the fence about possibly starting up your own corner of the Internet, hopefully this endeavor is able to push you to give it a real shot. And really, with such a large, helpful community backing you up, you really don’t have anything to lose and quite a lot to gain.
StarbaseUGC Presents: Purity
The Foundry in Star Trek Online often feels like the red-headed-stepchild of the game. The toolset enables all players to match wits with the writers of one of the most iconic IP’s in history, and tell their own story using the vast base of canon that has come before. On paper, it is a monument of epic proportions and is the glory of the Star Trek universe. In reality… not so much. Lackluster support from the developers and a playerbase that largely ignores it, it suffers. Without proper direction, finding user-generated missions that are high quality is no easy task. Thankfully, this is where StarbaseUGC steps in.
StarbaseUGC is a site designed for the Star Trek Online Foundry user. The site provides resources for both new authors and veterans alike, and should be the first place you go if you want to start the process.
To show their Star Trek prowess, StarbaseUGC launches today the first episode in a weekly story arc that will run until November 5th, a new episode every Tuesday. The episode “Purity: Of Denial” by Zorbane, will be available for all level 31+ Federation and Federation-Aligned Romulan Captains, and can be found from the Foundry tab of the Mission Journal. Check out the trailer below.
When Star Trek Online announced weekly episode missions, it was the next day that I purchase my Lifetime subscription. 3 years later, and they have come out with, what, four story arcs? I still consider my STO Lifetime a good purchase, as it has more than paid for itself, but their promise of weekly content has fallen by the wayside. Understandable, but still a shame. So I’m excited to see what StarbaseUGC is bringing to the Foundry and I will definitely be playing along (and reporting about it).
So will Zorbane knock the first chapter out of the park? Will Cerberusfilms be lifted to the level of minor celebrity?! Will Syp ever not sing a sea shanty over Teamspeak?!! Will YOU be the next breakout author of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and teach all of us a thing or two?!!! Tune in next time for the answers (maybe) to these thrilling questions!
Same Casual Aggro time! Same Casual Aggro channel!
I like new things. And screenshots. I’m a huge screenshot nerd. Don’t know why, but I have a million of them. It’s so bad that occasionally I’ll be someplace in the real world and think “This would make a fantastic screenshot”… yeah.
Anywho, I’ve decided to start up a weekly thing. Every Friday I’ll post a screenshot from my collection, one from a random game I’m currently playing, or one that, if anyone is interested, you send me! Yes, you! I would love to see the shots that everyone out there is collecting, I know I’m not the only one. If you have a good one, I’d be very grateful to see it. Just send it over to my e-mail: Ocholivis at Hotmail dot com, and I’ll post it here!
This is one of my favorites. Not too long into my first Star Trek Online playthrough, on Earth Space Dock I noticed lots of people jumping against the windows. So, what the heck, I joined them. Here if you ran towards the wall, beamed to your ship, and immediately beamed back, the game glitched and you appeared outside ESD. Sweet.
So, after chilling outside the windows for a while, dancing and waving at those inside, I jumped into nothingness. And landed… on nothing. Turning around, though, I saw this excellent shot. Moments later, I was pulled back onto ESD.
This glitch has most likely been fixed in the hundred or so patches since I took this and I haven’t tried it in a while, but the screenshot I got while experimenting in glitchery was well worth it.
Well, folks, in about 16 hours Neverwinter, the latest MMO from Cryptic and Perfect World will be entering it’s open beta phase of development. Past this point there will be no character wipes, though, so for all intents and purposes, consider Neverwinter launched. After all, the difference between a soft open-beta and a full-on launch is just bug fixes and patches, which happen all the time in MMO development anyway.
So once the floodgates open, we can fully start enjoying our time on the Tarnished Coast in all the glory the Dungeons and Dragons setting can muster (without really being very Dungeons and Dragons). But, to be honest, I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve spent a long time playing in Perfect World and Cryptic’s other games, namely Star Trek Online and Rusty Hearts, and the trend I’ve seen is a little scary. Namely, that the psychology behind relieving the player of their money is getting better and better.
Now, I’ve lived around gambling for quite some time. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the great state of New Jersey, so all my life I’ve been less than an hour drive to one of the USA’s great gambling meccas, Atlantic City. And now, Philadelphia itself has started to becoming a gambling destination of its own, sprouting up a few casinos in the past couple years. With my fascination of human behavior, this has led to a keen understanding of how the casinos are able to pull the money out of your pockets so easily.
And with the rise of Free-To-Play MMOs and casual mobile gaming, I’m starting to see the same signs invade our hobby…
Seeing Others Win
Have you ever put money into a slot machine, and even if you’ve won just a few coins the machine started whooping and hollering like a banshee? This is 100% on purpose. The noise and alarms that arise from slot machines is both for your benefit (You won! Woohoo!) but also for the benefit of others around you (Look! That guy won!). The draw of seeing others win with lights and sounds is a signal to others that they can win, too.
In games that use subscription models, this acts more like a Skinner Box, pushing you forward to your next dose of positive reinforcement. In Free-to-Play, though, seeing others win is an impetus to get where they are, and spending money is the easiest way to get there. In Star Trek Online, for example, whenever a lockbox is opened and the top prize is given out, a message goes out to the entire playerbase that you have won. Every… single… online… player. And there is NO OPTION to turn it off!
Giving you the option to do so would seriously hurt their income, too. Seeing others win is the biggest driver of sales of the lockbox keys, which puts money directly into their pockets. With the odds of winning being as low as they are, and the frequency at which people are spending money on keys to open the boxes… they aren’t going anywhere. Lockboxes make them money hand over fist, and despite the loud complaining about them, the players keep buying them, hoping for the big hit.
Playing With Points and Not Real Money
When you want to start gambling at table games, the first thing you do is head to a table and drop some money on the table. These are then replaced with clay chips that are used at the gambling tables. Universal, and nobody thinks twice about it. But really, they should! Why chips? Why have tokens that represent money? Well, for one, the casino finds it easier to transfer money en-mass and little chips are easier than stacks of paper. But the biggest reason is that, in the players mind, those chips stop representing real money. They become a plaything, a toy used in the transaction of gambling. The most I’ve ever dropped on a single hand of blackjack was $60. In chips, that’s two green $25 chips, and two red $5 chips. This was very easy to do at the time. If, in order to play, I had to pull three $20 bills out of my wallet and bet them on ONE HAND of blackjack… the better part of my mind would’ve stopped me. Those three $20s aren’t just bills… that’s food, gas, etc. However, in chip form, there’s a disconnect between the chips and real money.
In MMOs, the same goes with store points. Most games don’t do this, but Perfect World’s Zen has a direct 1:1 correlation with the American dollar. 1 Zen = $.01. So $20 = 2000 Zen and so forth. So that big Andorian Kumari Vessels 3-Pack that’s 5000 Zen literally translates to $50! However, once those bills are transferred into points, they don’t go into the same category as cash in your mind. And with Star Trek Online’s Dilithium or Neverwinter’s Astral Diamonds, even these have a direct correlation with Zen, which has a direct correlation with real cash. They become just another game currency, and as such, they’re easier to spend as your mind treats them differently.
Comfortability and Keeping You Active
In older casinos, finding clocks is relatively tricky. There is, however, a new thought of casino design that since people have easy access to a clock themselves, changing the environment to hide the outside world isn’t the primary thinking anymore. It’s more about being comfortable. If people are comfortable and they enjoy their environment, they will spend more. Roger Thomas, the head of design for Wynn’s Resorts has essentially reinvented the modern casino. Now, instead of a cave setting, Wynn’s casinos feature sunlight, opulence, and artwork. The key here is that a casino is now an adult playground, designed to be so comfortable that you’ll want to spend more time in them seeking whatever pleasures are offered. More time, afterall, equals more money in the casino’s pockets.
The same goes with MMOs. The more time you spend in them, the more money you will spend in a Free-To-Play game. And so, the key is to make the players as comfortable and as busy as possible, with reasons to keep coming back. Comfortability is easy. Players like the familiar, and are too thrown off by the different. If they see mechanics that they’ve seen in other games, they’ll find it all very comfortable. My recent review of the game posited that Neverwinter is really just a blend of other games, not doing everything the same, but not really adding to it, either.
And then keeping players active is Perfect World’s modus operandi, something they have perfected. How many times have I logged into Star Trek Online to stay for a few minutes, only to end up staying for an hour or more? From Forbe’s exultation of the game’s Landing Page and timed events to STO’s real-time Doff system or Neverwinter’s timed crafting system (like Zynga’s multi-billion dollar strategy), giving you stuff to do and giving you reasons to come back is paramount, and they do it well.
So What is The Future?
Really, it’s not going to stop. With Zynga opening up real online casinos, and Perfect World using casino strategies in their games, it will just lead to a bigger and bigger industry. Casino psychology has been around for ages and is only going to get stronger. Although Neverwinter is taking the chance by not offering a subscription at all, they know the psych game well and so it’s not really a huge risk for them.
You will find me periodically heading into Neverwinter, and I will most likely periodically be spending money there, too. If the game is fun, I don’t mind it at all… but always in the back of my mind is that itch. That little voice that says “The House Always Wins”. So, I don’t see myself spending tons of time in Neverwinter, maybe just a weekend trip here and there.
Just like a vacation to the casinos.