Archive for the ‘STO’ Tag

Events Everywhere! #STO #GW2 #TSW   1 comment

Star Trek Online, Crystalline Entity

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.

The Secret World, Filth, Whispering Tide

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.

// Ocho

Purity: Of Denial, Foundry Review #STO   1 comment

Star Trek Online, Mark Valentine, h2oratI 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.

Star Trek Online, Purity: Of Denial, Foundry, Zorbane

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.

Star Trek Online, Foundry, Purity: Of Denial

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.

Star Trek Online, Foundry, Purity: Of Denial

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…

// Ocho

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

StarbaseUGC’s Purity and the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2: Electric Boogaloo   Leave a comment

Lord of the Rings Online, The Shire, Hobbits

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!

Skyrim, Dragons, Fall

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.

Star Trek Online, Foundry, Star Trek

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!

// Ocho

My First Secret World Dungeon and I Didn’t Make a Complete Fool Out of Myself [TSW]   Leave a comment

Okay. I won’t lie. I’m not the most sociable when I play MMOs. I never really adhere to a set gaming schedule because, as summer is fast approaching, my schedule becomes more and more hectic and my gaming time takes a back seat to real life. Then on top of that I like playing the new games, or a sudden craving might hit to play a game I’ve never played before. And I’m not one to let my cravings go unheeded. So, I’m not the most consistent gamer in the world and as such I make an absolutely terrible guild-mate. Recently I found I was even kicked out of my fleet in Star Trek Online for not playing the game on a regular basis. So sue me. I enjoy that I can play with other gamers playing all around me, like going to the movies and experiencing a film as a collective group, but I’m definitely more the solo player.

So, it even shocked me to an extent that last Monday I joined along with the Knights of Mercy gaming crew, who I consider myself a fringe member of, and joined them in their pursuit of the “phat lootz”. I popped my Secret World dungeon cherry, running my very first dungeon ever in the game: Elite Polaris. Yes, my first dungeon was one of the hardest 5-man dungeons in the game and takes experienced and coordinated players to accomplish. I was neither.

 

This is why I appreciate the Mercy crew. Their gaming perspective is one of pure camaraderie. They didn’t demand to see accomplishments that I had previously run the dungeon. They didn’t demand that I must be fully geared. They didn’t demand that I even remotely know much about the game. They just demanded that I join them and have fun. This… I could do.

Thankfully, I was in one of the easiest positions: a damage dealer. In my old World of Warcraft days, I was the tank for every dungeon I ran, and let me tell you that is some stress right there. Wipe? Tank’s fault. Can’t keep aggro? Tank’s fault. Going too slow? Tank’s fault. So, whenever I run any group content the LAST person I ever blame for anything is the tank. I know what that job is like, and I give tanks out there a lot of credit.

So how did it all end?

WITH THAT BIG OL’ TENTACLED CTHULHU MOFO FACE DOWN IN THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL!

How did it happen? Really… I have no idea. I give all the credit to my fantastic group-mates, MMO Gamerchick, Husband-to-Gamerchick, TenTentacles, and Pid, as their experience and awesomeness won the day. Since this was my first TSW dungeon ever, I could not judge to what effect my support/damage did. I could’ve been helping a lot or I could’ve been helping very little. No clue.

So, heady from this big win, we delved into the next dungeon, Elite Hell Raised, and…

 

WIPED THE FLOOR WITH THOSE BOSSES SO HARD THAT THE DEVIL HIMSELF WAS IMPRESSED!

So not only was my first dungeon run a huge success. My second dungeon run, also Elite, was a huge success.

Maybe I’m not as bad a dungeon runner or as anti-social as I think I am…

// Ocho

P.S. – Sadly, my TSW character, Ocholivis, is unguilded (uncabaled?). I joined the Knights of Mercy for the run, but since they are all Templars and I am Illuminati, I can’t join in their guild. How sad is that? Funcom, seriously, work on that.

P.P.S. – Also, my STO character, @Ambrose99 is also unguilded (unfleeted?). If there are any STO fleets looking for an off-again, on-again member who doesn’t mind donating a great majority of his lifetime-membership resources, hit me up. I’ll definitely be looking for a new fleet once Legacy of Romulus drops in 9 DAYS!

P.P.P.S. – If you’re not hovering your mouse over my images yet, you’re missing out…

How MMOs are Adapting the Psychology of Casinos   8 comments

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.

// Ocho

Neverwinter is Coming [NWO]   6 comments

This past weekend, because of my lifetime membership to Star Trek Online, I was thrown a Beta invite for Neverwinter and I took full advantage of it to answer all the questions I had about the latest Cryptic/Perfect World title. Is it more D&D or MMO? Is it just another fantasy WoW clone?! Can it hold on it’s own in this day of MMO proliferation?!! Why can’t it be Winter?!!! Are there way too many kobolds?!!!! <Ahem> Excuse me. Got carried away there. Anyway, what I found is that Neverwinter appears to be a true blend of the MMO landscape. There wasn’t a lot that screamed new and revolutionary, but then they also aren’t claiming anything of the sort.

Of course I have to add in a little disclaimer of my review: WHAT I SAW IS STILL IN BETA! You know what that means. It’s all subject to change. What I say might end up being completely different by the end. Also, this is, by far, my longest post. I wanted to give a complete picture of Neverwinter, though, and I couldn’t seem to do that succinctly.

So What Is the Game’s Overall Style?

Have you played Dungeons and Dragons Online? How about Star Trek Online? Rusty Hearts? Then you’re mostly familiar with how this game rolls. After the tutorial, you start out in the communal area of the city of Neverwinter known as The Protector’s Enclave. Here you meet up with quest givers, visit the marketplace and auction houses and do all your big city tasks, similar to DDO’s Stormreach. Important quests in the questline are done through individual instances with doors to these instances off the main city. Once you finish with the the starting questline, you move to other areas. However, these other areas, like the Blacklake District, contain both wandering mobs AND doorways to instances. These areas felt a little more like the formula we’re use to seeing in WoW or LotRO or the like, with quest-hubs and quests of mainly the “Kill 10 Rats”  variety, but then interspersed with the instances and once completed led right back to The Protector’s Enclave.

Gear is acquired by completing quests, token exchanges, loot drops, and by spending Diamonds, similar to any game I can think of.

Story is Very Important to Me. Does Neverwinter Have Any?

In my short time playing, I was able to complete three campaigns: Recovering a stolen crown, snapping the power of a bandit group, and breaking the power of an orc group.    The storylines themselves so far are pretty weak. Coming from Star Trek Online, this is surprising, as the stories told in STO are fantastic and a huge draw to the game. The stories so far in Neverwinter have been pretty much “Hey! Go kill this bandit leader!” then once you slay him “Thanks! That’s awesome! Now go kill this other bandit leader!” I can see how these bandits are posing a problem, as they are next door neighbors to the safe Protector’s Enclave, but the “story” so far just feels like a murderous to-do list.

However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel: The Foundry. The Foundry is, I believe, where Neverwinter will truly shine. Keeping in line with the Neverwinter series of games, the User-generated missions, so far, are where I found the most story. Neverwinter’s first Foundry Spotlight is Zebular‘s ‘The Dweomerkeepers, Act 1‘, and was EXACTLY what I was expecting from Neverwinter’s community. Being part 1 of an 8 part series, you were sent to investigate why the Drow had taken up residence at an abandoned inn. You found statues to old gods, parchment that turned to dust in the sunlight, bookshelves filled with old tomes, relics to investigate, and a lot of Drow elves that had a problem with you being there. Well done. If there had been a Part 2 ready, I would’ve jumped into it. If you play it, leave a tip as well. Tips are a lot more important in Neverwinter as opposed to Star Trek Online as I’ll explain shortly.

Although FINDING the Foundry missions in the first place took a little time, not being able to be started from anywhere like in STO, there is already plenty of missions available to try. In a big step, Neverwinter will be working in the missions organically into the gameplay. You can find a whole slew of Foundry missions on the cities Help Wanted boards, or periodically you can run across “well-informed” individuals who will point you to nearby user-made missions. Finding Foundry missions in the wilds, making them easier to find, grouping them into campaigns, and not just randomly choosing from a list of 1000 missions will make the Foundry a much more useful storytelling tool for many.

Is it Truly D&D?

Uhhh… no. It’s not. Not truly, anyway. Now, although I own a set of dice (they’re around here somewhere) I haven’t played a round of tabletop D&D in ages. But I do know how D&D generally functions with the d20 being the crux of the game. Do I know 4th Edition well, the edition Neverwinter is supposed to be based off of? No. But I’m positive this can’t be it.

According to the last Beta Weekend details, the level cap was raised to 40 for the beta, but the overall level cap will be 60. 60! In D&D terms, where around level 30 starts to be considered god-like, level 60 is unheard of! At-will powers start out as incredible, like my level 1 cleric being able to create spears of damaging light as his normal attack, Encounter powers calling devastating light from the heavens, and Daily powers that aren’t… well… daily. They’re huge abilities that you charge up by being in combat, but far from being usable “daily”.

Then, of course, there are the classes. So far, they are the Guardian Fighter, Devoted Cleric, Great Weapon Fighter, Trickster Rogue, and Control Wizard. So a tank, healer, and 3 types of DPS. Okay. However, one of the hallmarks of D&D are the multitude and customizability of classes. Hell, having classes in D&D is the basis of why we have classes in every other MMO to begin with! Not to mention being able to multi-class. So where DDO has 13 classes now, and a plethora of ways to customize them, Neverwinter will start with just a handful of kinda-customizable classes. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s just not the openness of D&D. Most likely, as a means of making money, new classes will be added and sold in the store as time goes on.

Big Pimpin’

What’s the Main Currency?

Neverwinter, like any other MMO, has a number of currencies already in place. Gold, from loot and quest rewards to spend on consumables, supplies, etc. Astral Diamonds, rewards from daily activities, and then your standard Tokens for dungeon loot, etc. The part that surprised me, though, is that unlike Star Trek Online where the primary currency is Energy Credits (gold) that is traded back and forth by the players, the primary currency is Astral Diamonds. That means buying and selling things on the Auction House is all in Diamonds. The currency that is more restricted, the currency that is directly purchasable with Zen store points, is the primary currency. What does this mean? Well, in STO where you get EC from selling items and standard loot, you could make enough EC to trade for a huge item on the Exchange, like a new ship. Then, the player getting the EC could also trade it for ships, or use it to buy lockbox keys also on the exchange. In other words, anything that can be sold on the exchange is all in EC but acquiring EC is extremely simple, so the prices are wildly inflated. There is no way you can turn EC directly into Zen Points, though, only Dilithium, the Astral Diamonds equivalent.

Not Neverwinter. In Neverwinter, acquiring Diamonds will be a little more rare. However, say you find a +15 Sword of Cute Bunny Slaughtering. You could sell it to a vendor for gold or you could sell it on the Auction to another player for Diamonds. These Diamonds can then be traded directly for Zen Points! And then what do you buy with Zen points? Any big items. Companions, Mounts, Dyes, Classes, Races. Sure, in STO, some ships are purchasable with Dilithium, but the majority of ships you really want to fly are bought with Zen points.

From this I could see the items in the Auction staying a little more reasonable as players will be less-willing to let go of them. It’ll all depend how many they make available to the average player and where they can sink them to see if it turns into a stable economy.

Will I have a Lot of Weapons to Choose From?

No. The time I was playing the Devoted Cleric, I only saw 1 weapon type, a symbol. Down the line we’ll probably get fancier and fancier symbols, but as far as I can tell we only get symbols. Great Weapon Fighters get two-hand swords, Guardian Fighters get a sword and shield, Control Wizards get… that little ball over their shoulder? Something having to do with their two fingers that they keep staring at? No idea. But you get my point, weapon selection seems to be non-existent. If you’ve ever played Rusty Hearts, this is the same style. Natasha uses dual pistols, Angela uses a magic scythe. However, even they get to pick other weapons during the course of the game, so this may (and probably will) change.

I will have ALL THE CHEESE!! MUAHAHAHAHA!

What Features Are the Most Noticeable From Other Games?

The instanced quests, aside from being non-repeatable (yet), are very similar in style to Rusty Hearts. You enter the instance, start fighting mobs, get to the end, there’s a quick cutscene of the boss, you fight the boss, and then get a chest of loot. The instances are relatively quick, too, taking about 10 minutes. However, it’s not like Rusty Hearts in that you don’t have to repeat the same instance over and over and over again. It’s a once and done thing, which still feels a little quick. But there are Foundry missions, non-instanced camps of mobs, and Skirmishes if you need to grind a bit, so all is not lost, though instanced quests do seem to be the best source of crafting materials.

The combat is most similar to Guild Wars 2, but expect to not move around so much. This is both good and bad. Bad because I’m now so USE to running and gunning at the same time, and evading is a piece of cake, but Good because it involves a little more strategy. If you see a red circle around you, you have to stop attacking immediately and run, else you get hit. So if you move more, you attack less. You could attack more, but be prepared to be hit more, too. It plays to more of a balance.

Every hour you can call upon your gods to grant you loot and buffs. This is taken from another Perfect World title, PWI. There is smaller group content, aside from the 5-man dungeons found in every game, called Skirmishes, which are quick. These are similar to LotRO’s Skirmishes, but can’t be done solo. And finally, you can gain companions, similar to Bridge Officers from Star Trek Online to help you solo.

So How Was the Devoted Cleric?

I found the Devoted Cleric a powerhouse. After dungeons and skirmishes, I usually found myself at the top or near the top in both damage output and healing output, so I may keep using him into the Third Beta Weekend coming up March 22nd. Being the only healing class, and since health doesn’t regenerate naturally (at least at the low levels), the Cleric is a straight-up necessity. I don’t usually play healing classes  because the high demand puts a lot of pressure on playing well, but I may give the Devoted Cleric a shot. I ran the one dungeon I could at level 16, the Cloak Tower, and we sprinted through it without too much trouble. Healing is sometimes difficult, but mouse-look targeting to heal?! It was a little more frantic than I had anticipated. I heard that further down the line, you can pick up a lot more AoE heals, but the mouse targeting of party members to heal was tricky to pick up, but still doable. I think I did admirably given my noobishness.

D’Awwww Puppy!

I Care About Looks! How Are the Graphics?

The graphics are a lot better than I was ever expecting. It’s an MMO with collision physics! Even among other players, you can’t stand in exactly the same spot as anyone else, you would collide with them. When you kill a mob on a sloped surface, they slide down the surface. Think Skyrim and ragdolls. Basically, way cooler than I was expecting. Mixed with the nice lighting and shading effects, I was more impressed than I thought I’d be and think this is easily one of the nicest-on-the-eyes MMO’s I’ve played yet.

How Is Neverwinter Compared to Turbine’s DDO?

Another D&D MMO on the market, and both entering into the Forgotten Realms. It’s tricky, to say the least, and it really depends on what you’re looking for in a game. If you’re a big fan of D&D, DDO is much better as it sticks to the true D&D better. I would even still give the better storytelling to Turbine’s DDO. However, if you’re not as big a fan of D&D, more into action-style combat, and more a fan of the “standard” style of MMO, you would appreciate Neverwinter more. Essentially, I don’t think Neverwinter will be usurping the D&D MMO crown but sharing it, especially with all the strides that DDO has made recently.

Feel the wrath of Four Leaf Clovers! (Not Red Balloons)

You Can’t Seem to Shut Up in This Post. Just Give Me the Rundown, Already. How Was It Overall?

I might come off as a little critical in this post, especially since it’s still in Beta, but I truly did like it. I don’t think it’ll become more like D&D, and will stay more like an MMO, which I like. The story will most likely improve as the game progresses and the Foundry will grow along side it, becoming a huge reason, if not THE reason, to play it. The graphics will still be really nice, especially for an MMO. Weapon and armor selection will most likely stay limited and might expand to a secondary weapon, but I wouldn’t expect a whole bunch more.

Overall, and most importantly, it was a lot of fun to play! Will it be the be-all-end-all MMO? No. Certainly not. Not in this day of an over-saturated MMO market. However, I can see it easily finding a place in the market and being fully free-to-play (and I mean FULLY, can’t subscribe to it if you wanted to), will most likely keep the servers nice and full.

I don’t see this becoming my “Home” MMO, as that currently belongs to STO, but I can definitely see adding this to my repertoire.

// Ocho

How to Make a Good Foundry Mission [STO]   1 comment

So, as I promised, I fully completed every mission of Star Trek Online’s Foundry Challenge #4. In this challenge, a player had to use the Star Trek Online Foundry tools to create a mission that had something to do with a 1000-year-old derelict ship and some mystery contained therein. I finished the last mission right under the wire, and got my vote in late Tuesday night. Now, I’ve played my fair share of these player-created Foundry missions, and there are some really talented authors out there. However, with all the good ones, you’ll also find ones that just aren’t quite ripe.

So, in that vain, this post is twofold: I want to show you some of the best of this past Foundry Challenge, as well as give some of my personal preferences for what *I* think makes a great mission.

What I Look For In A Good Mission

First and foremost, I like a good Story. Give my characters a reason to be there, and I mean a GOOD reason. At this point, the majority of players are at the level cap and are all considered Vice Admiral rank. So, give my character something worthy of a Vice Admiral! The standard kill ten Romulan variety missions just don’t cut it for a VA. Sisco, Picard, Kirk, Janeway, all the great captains we’ve come to know and love… yeah, according to Star Trek Online, we outrank them all. We should be giving THEM orders.

However, don’t get bogged down in just story. What makes the shows great, as well as most entertainment, is all about the Balance behind it. The serious is balanced with the comic relief. The story is balanced with the action. Since this is a primarily action oriented MMO, I would even err on the side of action over story, but not by too much. The forward movement of the plot should then rise and come to the climax, with a nice conclusion after to round it all off. So, if you have too MUCH story it ends up being a novel. Too little story, though, and it just feels like a grind. Find the right balance between the two.

Believability is another strong point of mine, especially when it effects the words coming out of my character’s mouth. As The Secret World shows us, having a silent protagonist is a good thing. From way back in character creation, most gamers have an idea of what their character is like personality-wise. It isn’t a stat that’s included (in Star Trek Online, anyway), but I can picture my character being the ideal of Starfleet. He’s dutiful, thoughtful, considers his words carefully, and tries to find a peaceful solution first if one is present. So, sometimes, it really grates my nerves when my character is forced through dialogue that I can’t picture him saying. Why would I insult a new species I just met? Why would I be having a tryst with a lower ranking officer, if I know it is against the rules? Why would I put up with snide, seditious remarks from my officers or allow them to berate each other? He’s certainly not perfect, but the way I picture my captain, none of these is acceptable. So if my captain is forced into these situations my willing suspension of disbelief shatters.

Detail. Large stretches of flat land aren’t that exciting. Nobody takes screenshots of boring grey structures, they like a little diversity and pop in what they’re seeing. A little flair makes the space feel full and alive. Also, I know I’m the LAST person to be giving this comment, but a little bit of spellchecking on the text wouldn’t hurt. I’m willing to let a few grammar and spelling errors slide, but when they start turning up in every single dialogue box, it just looks sloppy. Like a stain on a tuxedo, it’s hard NOT to notice them, especially if they’re everywhere.

Finally, Time. The rewards that we get for completing these missions is not a lot. When we complete three Foundry missions, we are given a stack of fleet marks, experience, and either a random leveled item or a decent chunk of dilithium. Compare this to any other mission or daily in the game. If it takes an hour to get the same rewards elsewhere, what is the draw of an hour long, long-winded mission that you have to go through 3 times for the same reward? There really isn’t one. The perfect time for a Foundry mission, in my opinion, is about 15-20 minutes from start to finish, and that’s with reading all the dialogue. That gives enough time where it’s not a cheat, enough time to give a decent story and exposition, have some combat, and see multiple locations, but still be resolved in a timely manner consistent with the rewards.

My Favorite Missions of the Challenge

My favorite mission out of the group, and it was close call, was The Twilight of the Gods by diogene0. When it comes to what I look for in a good mission, it had most of it down. It started off with a good reason why my Vice Admiral would be bothered being there in the first place, a rescue mission. If you can help, it doesn’t matter your rank, helping others is a civic duty.

You are sent to Pico VI, a not too friendly environment, and tasked with finding a crashed shuttlecraft. After a few run-ins with the wildlife you find the shuttle and, after giving assistance, you make the decision to continue on the shuttle’s original mission. This leads to an underground cavern filled with color, to space battles, to infiltrating a Romulan base. In the end, a plot that would’ve been a huge blow to citizens from hundreds of worlds is unraveled. Well done. It had everything from a compelling story, to decent combat, to interesting environments, to a worthwhile conclusion. Don’t forget the loot, too. I got some nice drops in there as well.  The mission did have my character speaking a lot throughout the dialogue. However, what my character was saying wasn’t too outside the realm of possibility, and so it didn’t ever feel too unbelievable.

Other great missions, and ones I had a hard time choosing between for top honors were The Answer by Raptorwalker, Atlas by rickysmith1, and the winner of the Foundry Challenge, Relics by Kirkfat. All are very good efforts I highly recommend, definitely worthy of recognition.

// Ocho

P.S. – If you have a mission and want some input, all you have to do is ask (STO handle: @Ambrose99). I’d be more than happy to help. Also, I think that during the next challenge, despite having no real talent or knowledge of the Foundry system, I’ll be submitting my own mission. Why not? The more missions available to players, the better, and I’ll get to put my suggestions up there to good use.

P.P.S. – All of the Foundry authors put a lot of time and effort into these missions. Even if you didn’t enjoy it all that much, still give them a decent 100 dilithium tip. It’s the least you could do.

Posted September 28, 2012 by Ocho in Star Trek Online

Tagged with , , ,

Time Gates And MMOs Don’t Mix   4 comments

I know I just posted an article on the how the MMO community can be a little negative, but as I pointed out, sometimes criticism is necessary. This is one of those times. I haven’t started seeing a trend yet, and maybe that’s because I just haven’t played as many MMOs to notice, but in Star Trek Online we’re starting to see content and missions hiding behind “time gates”. And excuse me for being so frank but they are a terrible idea.

A “time gate” is essentially a certain mission, dungeon, or other event that only happens at different times and only for a short period of time. A good example of this is the Vault Shuttle Event, in which you have five players, all in shuttlecraft, lead a mission into a space station known as the “Vault”. It’s the equivalent of a five person dungeon, but in very specific ships and runs at random times of the day.

I get it. If you have a specific event that only comes around at specific (and sometimes random) times, then your playerbase is going to spend more time waiting for those events to occur and the rewards given are going to not be as common and easy to acquire. This leads to completionist or loot-hungry players playing the game more often. More time in-game means more time playing, which means the possibility of those players spending more money. For a free-to-play game, players spending money is very important. See, I get it.

However, for players that do not have completionist tendencies to the point of disorder and aren’t as attached to one specific game, as I assume a majority of players are, this is not how games are approached.

Maybe the Guardian of Forever likes ‘Time Gating’! Get it?!! He’s the Guardian of Forever… looks like a gate… deals with time. You know what, just forget it…

Here is a possible rundown for this event: I fire up the game, check the missions that are available, see when the specific event I want to play is, stop playing, come back later at that time, find a group, and play it. Three big problems come up with this scenario.

1) I stop playing. For those of us with limited time on our hands to play games, if I shut down a game, there is little chance I’ll be opening it up again later on. I’ll play whatever game I have time to play now while I have time.

2) Come back later at that time. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing or what could possibly come up in between now and when the event is taking place! My wife could suddenly have a cheese fries craving, or a phone call from a friend with an extra ticket could lead to a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert in Delaware, or an impromptu campfire with s’mores, cigars, and whiskey. Every single one of these events has happened to me, and so if I’m playing a game, I want to play it now, not in the future.

Finally the worst, 3) Find a Group. Since these events seem to be at random times, scheduling to play the game with a group of friends or fleet-mates is a lot more tricky and so a lot of the time, playing the event would require getting into a pick-up-group. A pick-up-group is a group consisting of random players you do not know personally, and is one of the curses of the MMO world. Every once in a while you can get into a good pick-up-group that knows what they are doing and everything meshes well. Mostly, however, the group consists of opposite personalities, different playstyles, different response to authority, different experience, and different competency. So the pick-up-group has a much higher chance of failure. MMOs have different ways of dealing with the stress of pick-up-groups. Some offer more reward for being in them, some offer a convenient way to enter them, so when it fails you haven’t lost a lot of time, too.

By this time, my lungs were aching for air…

My idea (and as with any idea on the internet, please take it with a grain of salt) is thus: If you’re going to have time gated content to get the benefits that I described above, how about make the content soloable? If I’m playing, and it randomly pops up, I feel much more comfortable playing if it doesn’t involve other people. If I’m looking to play that mission specifically, 1 and 2 above still are in effect, but because it’s so easy to jump into and complete, I don’t feel as bad about missing the opportunity to play. Then, given a tiered reward system where the ones who play in groups get the best rewards quicker, I could still get the best rewards over more time. Not having to find a group to play it completely removes that stress, and then I would look forward to thinking “I wonder which random mission will be available tonight?”

As it stands now, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever play any of the time gated content in Star Trek Online. Every time I’ve been on since any time-gated content has been introduced just hasn’t been the right time and I’m not going to start scheduling my gaming time around the events. There are way too many great games that I could play right now that waiting for a specific time in a specific game just isn’t feasible.

I game on my time, not anyone else’s. Now, I’m not saying that I’ll never play it as there is always a chance… but who knows when that chance will be.

\\ Ocho 

P.S. – It has come to my attention that over on Syp’s Bio Break, Casual Aggro has been nominated for the Newbie Blogger Initiative title of “Promising Star, General Games and Geekery“! Woah! To say I’m floored is an understatement. This is a very awesome and humbling nomination, especially considering all the other amazing bloggers that joined in as a part of the NBI festivities. Just to be nominated is an honor. Thank you to all of you amazing readers, I can never thank you enough. You all ROCK!

Gametime! The Baconing and Star Trek Online   Leave a comment

I love a good Steam sale. No, really, my collection is rather ridiculous. It was during one of these sales that I saw and picked up The Baconing, an indie title from Hothead Games. With a title like that, how could I not? It wasn’t until after I started playing it that I realized it was the third of a trilogy, where the first two were made by the legendary Ron Gilbert, creator of the Monkey Island series, which I also highly suggest picking up. Even without his genius, The Baconing is still a fun as heck game, and I’m now waiting for the first and second of the trilogy to go on sale so I can pick them up as well (C’mon Steam! Get on that!).

The 2D/3D effect is a killer art style.

After listening to the last STOked episode, I jumped into Star Trek Online and played a bit of the foundry. Personally, I love the Foundry. I haven’t created any missions myself (yet), but the creativity that other players come up with is amazing. The good stuff is a little tricky to find, though, so I mainly get my Foundry playlists from trusted sources, like StarbaseUGC, STOked, and finally Cryptic themselves. I’m glad that Cryptic has started promoting specific missions because then at least you know they are going to be good. For the record, I went in to play two missions specifically: ‘The Worst of Both Worlds’ and ‘Temple of Pah-Wraiths’, both made by Captain_Revo, and both are more than worth it.

Bajor never looked so… Borg-y.

Finally, I haven’t yet gone back into Lord of the Rings Online for the Spring Festival. I know, I know, I was just complaining about not having time for special events, but this one I will make. It’s on until June 11th, though, so I got plenty of time. I’m even considering starting a new character. I do like the Loremaster, but its not as up-close and personal as I prefer.

\\ Ocho

Negativity Will Get You Nowhere   2 comments

I consider myself a fairly decent poker player. I’ve played mostly Texas Hold-Em’ in friend’s basements, and also down at the tables in Atlantic City with the majority of times walking away with more than I started with. Poker teaches you, among other things, a lot about the sunk cost fallacy, or basically “the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it”. The key is getting a decent hand, and then pulling other players into a “sunk cost” trap while avoiding falling into it yourself. The sunk cost fallacy doesn’t just come into play in poker, but in life, too. Once you become invested, with time, money, and emotions in something, like say an MMO, it’s hard to detach yourself and think rationally about it.

However, we’re not just sheep. When a developer changes our game, we feel cheated, right? We feel that we’re paying for it, therefore we should decide what goes on with it! The changes they’re making are stupid! Any idiot can see that what they’re doing will RUIN the game! If this patch doesn’t change, I’m going to leave this stupid game and take my money elsewhere! – A post found after every set of patch notes released ever.

FFFFFFUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!

If a change is made in one of our favorite games, a game that we’ve invested a huge amount of time playing, and we don’t like it, instead of taking a look at what the game has changed to and either accepting it rationally or deciding to pass, we rarely make the right choice. I mean, these are MMOs! The whole point is that the game changes over time! I’ve seen time and again in forums and in the comment sections of articles a flat out lambasting of the subject matter or the author about why the game will fail because of a newly implemented feature and nobody will ever play it again.

Unnecessary. Really, its unnecessary. I’m not saying that criticism can’t be given to the developers about what players think should change, this is the whole reason why forums exist, but why does all the negativity and hostility have to go along with it?

How about the NEW ending?

If you can’t tell by now, I play Star Trek Online. When the game was released, the phrase “half-baked” was putting it mildly. The game was filled with bugs, had a very steep learning curve, and it seemed like you played the same five “random” missions over again. Eventually, the game went free-to-play and was bought up by Perfect World Entertainment. Believe it or not, this changed the game dramatically. Shocking, right? Lockboxes, time-gated content, multiple forms of currency, real money transactions, and huge grinds were brought along with it, something seen in pretty much every other Perfect World title.

Is it better? Is it worse? Arguments can be made for both causes, but the game is what it is. Its evolved far from the game that is was. This applies to every game out there: Take it for what it is, or leave it. I’m still a huge fan of Star Trek, and I will still play it and enjoy it. If you’re really that compelled to complain incessantly about how they are working on a new character model to go into the game’s store instead of a new endgame content, instead try to look at how much that really bothers you. If it bothers you to the point of rage quitting, then quit. Find some other form of entertainment that won’t make you turn red in the face at it’s mere mention.

We play these games to have fun. Plain and simple. If you’re not having fun, then why do you play at all?

Hey buddy! Cheer up!

The latest episode of STOked is not the most complimentary of the changes that have been made to Star Trek Online, and it shocked me. The whole reason why I joined the Star Trek Online community was because of STOked! It was because of Chris and Jeremy and the bottomless fountain of passion that they had for the game. They oozed excitement and wanted you to be excited with them. I read Massively because the passion is evident there, too, and I’ve stopped reading numerous other sites because they turned too negative, they lost the passion, they lost the fun.

Most changes that have been made to Star Trek Online since being bought by Perfect World have been to monetize and work in a formula of success that Perfect World has proven time and again with their other games. The developers may have their hands tied and may not have many choices when it comes to implementing these systems. Does it matter? I don’t think so.

What I see is a group of developers that have a huge amount of passion for their game, and they are doing everything in their power to not only abide by these rules, but also provide a product that is fun and they can be proud of.

The day that passion is gone will be the day that the game is no longer worth playing. With the developers that Cryptic has now, that day is nowhere in sight.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – I want to give a big ‘Thank you!’ to the always passionate Terilynn. She is always willing to lend a hand, and that’s an awesome quality to have.

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