December 29, 2011

RP Feeling Pointless in SWTOR

So, here we are at the end of the year, been occupying myself with trying to get a guild under control and playing SWTOR. I think that much is probably very obvious to those who actually care, but there are some things I still think about when it concerns the gaming world. Today, I am going to talk about role-play in TOR, or actually, the lack there of because of the simple fact that BioWare has basically written your character for you removing any sense of self in that regard.

RP is something I was hoping to get back into but just frankly, there is a very huge wall that's in the way in SWTOR. Of course, this has been around for a while, with games being more like WoW in all sense, but it's most evident in SWTOR because, well, your character has a predetermined voice, predetermined lines and the choices, though have different flavors of them, ultimately have the same ending regardless of what actual choice you make in the entire conversation.

Now, I know there are going to be people that tell me "No, it's not true, your choice has meaning and impact" the real answer is, no it really doesn't. Any game altering choice comes towards the end when the NPC in question or item has lost its usefulness regardless of which direction you got. So if you gave an item away or kept it, or killed an NPC or kept them alive, the final answer has little bearing on the ending outcome.  Let me give two examples of this;

On the Esseles, you come across a situation that you can either go power down conduits or kill engineers. The power down conduits results in about 2 extra minutes in a circle that over all doesn't really add enough time to matter, while killing the crew just lets you access the elevator faster. The end result is the exact same regardless of choice there.

Same instance, this time at the end you are given a choice to either leave the Ambassador behind or keep her with you. Regardless of if you do or don't or you tell her of the plot against her, the ending is the exact same with a few differences in words spoken. The final result is this entire "Choice" system is a disguised choice as it really doesn't exist and in the end it's just arbitrary padding for the alignment system, and given how little that actually impacts, I would wager that the alignment system will be the first victim come expansion time as it provides no actual benefits or incentives and actually just arbitrarily restricts items that shouldn't be restricted. And the first situation above has absolutely no bearing on whether you escape or not because those engineers never, ever are mentioned again after that cut scene.

So, let's get back on the whole role-play thing.  Now, people tend to mistake a choice wheel as actual RP in games, hence BioWare often being labeled as some sort of guru in the RP gaming world. However, this is actually not the case. This is an interactive menu system, more akin to a choose your own adventure novel, or in this case with SWTOR, an interactive movie. While this isn't a bad system in itself, as far as role-play is concerned it puts a huge damper on the field for those people that actually enjoy to create and play the character they imagine.

Let me explain this. Most RPers tend to imagine their character. Now while there are many people who have an imagination as deep as a tea spoon, hence all the Darth Maul's, Yugiohs, and Naruto clones that wander around (let's not even get into super heroes in super hero MMOs) many more players actually spend time coming up with an idea, a concept and a personality for their character. They even spend time trying to think up habits, likes, dislikes and what they might even sound like. However, the conundrum created with SWTOR is a large part of that is actually taken away because the voice, the words and the personality is actually taken out of the players hand and put in a wheel that, even though you might pick a choice that sounds close to what you were imagining in your head, the actual words spoken by the character don't even sound remotely close to how you interpreted the response.

I've talked to many RPers about this, and many of them find that this actually kills the mood for RP for them. It's bad enough most MMOs these days do not support sandbox elements to help make a nice and viable RP atmosphere, but now they are pushing to actually removing the things we RPers spend time actually trying to create with our character. This, to me, is a huge step in the wrong direction.

Now, I want to make it clear I am enjoying SWTOR. I can see myself playing after the initial month. Though I will be honest there are many nagging QOL issues creeping up that are just pissing me off that should be ironed out now. Things like the UI, to the latency in PvP are part of those issues, but that's just a start for me, and I am sure there are many others. Things seem to be working well but as far as the RP, even being on an RP server, that just doesn't seem viable because right now I keep trying, but every time I get into a cut scene the whole mood is ruined because of a predetermined script.

December 8, 2011

Randomness with TOR

Alright, it appears I missed an entire month. Not surprising as I ended up staring at a few things that interested me. Also not surprising I still haven't written a review about DCUO, but what is there really to say about it? The game hasn't changed from its beta perspective and other than a few things here and there is still too easy, and pretty much is a mockery of that vaunted choice they claim to have in their system. Despite that I do try to log in occasionally to play with friends who insist on it. Free is free, after all, though Sony's practices are very suspect.

Other than that I've been playing things like Terraria, Minecraft and even had two weekends in The Old Republic. So, I kept getting distracted, a lot. This blog won't be so much of a review as me just sitting here shaking my head and how far the human gene pool has gone down the tubes these days. But first, I know people want to know what I think of The Old Republic, so I will sum it up quickly.

For people expecting TOR to be a revolutionary game, stop daydreaming. The game is pretty much WoW in every shape, form and fashion. People telling you it's not need to pull their heads out of their ass's. To misquote Yahtzee, TOR is average, boiler plate, run of the mill. It's a competent MMO with its only remarkable feature being how far it's stuck up its own ass. It passes no boundaries and pushes no envelopes. An envelope would move faster in front of a glacier.

Now people will probably mistake what I mean there, but I did enjoy TOR. I am not gaga over TOR, but I will say, the artwork is beautiful (anyone who claims the art or graphics are bad needs to stop bashing their head against the keyboard or actually turn their monitors on because you are batshit stupid if you believe anything of that nature and have actually played the game) and the talky bits, when they aren't standard MMO tripe do add something. But in the fashion of revolution, TOR has done nothing of the sort. Outside of the talky wheel non-sense you could transplant WoW or even EQ into the model and everything would translate almost flawlessly.

In fact, like Blizzard when WoW released, I am stupefied how game developers keep making the cardinal sins they do when it concerns their UI interface and taking out basic key features that have been standard since the second generation of MMOs. As of this writing, I absolutely hate that UI in TOR, and I will definitely be modding that up the moment we are allowed to.

In short, people that talk up TOR as if it is the second coming or think TOR is not WoW, EQ or any other previous MMO with a new skin, are deluded in a way that just need to get over it. TOR will undoubtedly pull large numbers immediately, but retention will probably not be its strong suit. People are leaving WoW now, and I doubt people are going to find TOR offering anything they don't already do in their previous titles, especially since BioWare have made it clear they are going to "follow Blizzard" which means they are most likely not going to do much to deviate themselves from the standard WoW design and formula. Just expect longer than normal update periods since they will have to record voices and crap for any type of update that includes new quests. And to close this off, again, while I know a few people will assume that I loathe TOR, they just need to get over it that TOR has not done anything remarkable or special in the genre. The game is good, I enjoy it, and may for even a few months, but it's not an MMO, more than just a theme park game with massively player options. MMOs, to me, are sandbox games, and a game like that has not been developed in years. And people that claim that TOR has sandbox features are so deluded they need to take their heads out of whatever drug induced fantasy they are in and come to realize MMOs haven't had sandbox features in a long, long time.

October 25, 2011


I've seen some bullshit dick moves when it comes to the F2P marketing scheme lately, but so far I've never seen someone use and abuse specific taglines as badly as City of Heroes has done. I had no intention of paying more than 1 month sub to the game because, quite frankly, that game isn't worth $15 a month. I had no intention of logging in to maybe fool around every now and then and chat with friends, and collect badges because that's what I do, but I can't even enjoy that much anymore.

Now that my VIP status has expired, I expected to lose access to Praetoria, alignment, and my incarnate stuff as advertised and keep everything I owned prior to the F2P update, as the document even claimed. But nope, that's plain bullshit. First thing I notice, well not notice it's more of get a big box covering my screen once I was out of VIP, my character slots have been locked and I can only unlock 6 of them. 6 of the 12 slots I owned on just one server. They want me to pay to unlock the rest I earned and paid for years ago. I even lost access to several powers and emotes I had received throughout the tenure of my stay in City of Villains before I quit. That chafed me the wrong way to but that wasn't enough to make me rage against the wall and I expected it no less.

No, the straw that's really broke the camel's back for me and files the City of Heroes NCSoft F2P as one giant con job and uber dickery move that people who continue to play it bend over gratefully for is the fact that enhancements I earned over 3 years ago have been locked out. I have entire sets of enhancements from back when the invention system first hit the scene in City of Heroes but they are no longer working. It was a shock to me because I didn't know this fact that my entire build became invalid with a clean sweep change. This is like earning your gear in another MMO and being told you can't use your gear until you pay more. This is money grubbing uber dickery at its finest, and what's even funnier are the vast number of people who think this is perfectly fine.

No, this is not perfectly fine. This is a lie of epic proportions. I noticed that the actual amount of activity had diminished greatly the past few days and I suspect what I am feeling now is probably the reason why. The F2P bug wore off and the reality of the bullshit that NCSoft is trying to pull has sunk in. The nostalgia trip is over and people are leaving again to see that nothing has changed and they want you to pay for it in the process.

And what really makes me laugh about this is the people who turn around and try to cite Cryptic as being con artists because of how they handle freeform versus archetype. At least they were upfront about it and respected legacy stuff as well. Not to mention Cryptic has bent over backwards at times to actually make their F2P acceptable. And what's even funnier are the people that claim the Archetypes are restrictive, yet these people play a game where you are forced, forever, to be one class, with two power sets with no real change between them. I rag Cryptic a lot but I give them props for actually doing what they say and not coming up with bullshit along the lines of sounding like it's just the spirit that counts.


I've had a couple of people try to tell me I get what I paid for. OK nimrods, here's the thing. I paid for this crap years ago. And now NCSoft wants me to pay again. Hell, I have a friend who owned and had upgraded their account with Going Rogue and they lost all of that and NCSoft, again, told them to repay for it. No, just no. That's plain bullshit ripoff con job.

October 21, 2011

Reviewing the City of Heroes Halloween Event

This is actually a nice exterior map, but beneath it is a
rail shooter that is just missing the rails to make the set

Well, the first game that I am currently playing has released their Halloween event and so far, well, I can't say a whole hell of a lot because there isn't a whole hell of a lot to it. Now, before people come in and take the chance to sit here and tell me how wrong or stupid I am, let me explain this a little bit. First, I want to say I am not ragging on the season; I love Halloween. It is my favorite time of year, and before any neo pagans or whatever try to come in and tell me about the history of the holiday, I will tell you now, yes, I know. In fact I probably know more about it than you neo pagans probably know yourselves since I actually studied up on it over several years because I like this holiday that much.

Now, back on point. Halloween has been a rather staple event in City of Heroes for the past couple of years. However, for the most part it has always been a rather open world thing. Go knock (or click really) on a few doors, get monsters or treats, or beat up a couple of special event Giant Monsters that are just the Croatoa monsters rehashed in the world at large. (Yes, I know Eochai came before Croatoa, but since he is a regular now, I will state it my way). They've added bits here over the years but it was pretty much the same event.

That was until around the time of Issue 10, when the Invasion started. You see, the invasion was cool during that scenario because of limited time badges and a feeling that the timeline was escalating. However, the brains over at NCSoft actually took that to mean we wanted invasions all the time, and now you can't even wiggle an eyebrow without an invasion week or something like it going on. This is something that NCSoft really hasn't grasped, that a limited time event loses its charm when it's constantly repeatable and it loses the value of reward for having participated in it when you know all the rewards you get will be there throughout the year for people to get with even less effort than you had to work for.

Now how I mean this is NCSoft thought that Invasion was so popular they would do something similar for the Halloween that year Invasion came out; A Zombie Apocalypse zone invasion. Same mechanics basically, minus bombing, and pretty much everyone either huddles around for the most zombies possible or they hide under cover (oddly) to avoid zombie spawns or better yet leave that particular zone.

Past this time I had little knowledge of because I actually quit playing City of Heroes around then, but I know, now, the banners were added and how those mechanics work (think zombie apocalypse with predetermined locations and a macguffin that needs to be destroyed to stop the spawning) and when Going Rogue and its tip missions came out, a Halloween tip that you could get that gave you a stupid easy instance you could run through to kill one guy and pick the badge you liked. And if you were bored enough get them all by repeating that step 5 times in total.

This year's Halloween is just all that, plus the addition of a level 29 trial that people get to enter. The trial sounded fun at first and there are some rewards for completing it, however, after having played through it a couple of times it came off rather bland and uninspired to me to be blunt about it.

First it's just a straight corridor map, IE you enter one end exit the other, no real deviation, just follow the hallway type map. There are turns and twists in it, IE the hallway turns and twists, but there aren't any real get off the beaten path moments or changes. The interior is nice and they probably spent some time on putting it together, but it loses its charm when you feel like there should be rails and a car under you at that point.

Second, unless your team is very thick or something, you can pretty much get all the badges this thing has to offer in one go. Hell, the only reason to do this trial a second time is to get both of the unlocks that it offers, and only if you decided that paying for those items in the Paragon store wasn't your cup of tea, which is funny to me since most everyone I did that map with did buy those items in the Paragon store (I didn't personally since none of them fit my theme).

Finally, like mentioned previously, there are no surprises. You are actually told what to do for all the special stuff right out. Instead of figuring any of this out we are basically led around like a terrier with commands to tell us to do it that way. The boss fights are forgettable and uninspired as the first boss is just Adamanstor made into an AV that you can basically laugh at, and the final boss fight is set up and easily tankable by one person while the rest just go off and get zombies for the badge they explain to you how to get in the entire event bar. Leaving no real mystery, it even says kill boss last. The only surprise is you need a costume to get the zombies out faster and defeating the boss wearing a costume gives you one of three badges. It's a fight that tests how thick people are, and trust me I've already ran into some people who were thick enough to replace the Berlin Wall.

In the end, this update to the Halloween event was just a disappointment. I don't expect much since they've only tacked on small bits every year, but with this aping of the trial and such I expected a heck of a lot more. There is a secret in it, but it isn't even worth your time as the fight is pathetic and there isn't even an acknowledgement badge to denote you even found it or anything really. So in short, it's a ride that's missing the rails and car to make it official. It's entertaining the first time through but after that point you should only be doing a second time if you need both of the costume rewards. New comers will probably get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of things for Halloween, but that's because that's just several years worth of stuff tacked onto the original event. It's a nice effort, but still comes off disappointing to what it should have been.

October 18, 2011

Ranting about RP in an MMO

I've harped on this before, but I guess it's time to harp on it again; I really hate bad role-players. And not just any type of bad role-playing but the type that actually makes fan fiction look good. The type of people that think they are role-playing just because they like to describe every insipid, pointless action and call it an art form. This isn't role-play people, this is boring exposition and like it or not, role-playing isn't about boring exposition.

I use to be big into role-playing a long time ago, but I came to the realization that role-playing is practically a dead medium in the MMO industry because of the simple fact that no one can actually accept that they are not a unique little snowflake, and the potential that their character could lose to anyone else is a cardinal sin. Not to mention, it disgusts me immensely people expect me to take someone at face value for a level 1 character is suppose to be the next savior of the universe, or a god-like being when they wouldn't even have hope 1 in hell of defeating my character. God moding your character doesn't make you a role-player.

The ones that really annoy me are the RPers that don't even take the 5 minutes to read up on the lore basics and actually try to fit their character into the universe they are RPing in. In fact, many of the so called RP characters are blatant rip-offs of other, well established characters from other mediums that can't even fit in the universe that is being offered. And instead of actually fitting in, they stick out like a sore thumb on a yeti in the middle of a green park.

It's things like that that really drive me nuts. And that's not even getting into the fact that when people sit down and just write their paragraph worth of exposition to describe taking a sip from a goddamn drinking glass, they can't even be bothered to use the proper tense for the sentence and that really irks me to no end. Example: Would take another small bite and speaks after she swallows. What? Did you take the bite or didn't you? Use proper tense and grammar damn it. And why do you need to tell me you are speaking, when if you are using proper punctuation, it should be bloody obvious? You are not the Shakespeare of the gaming world people so stop trying to write like you're a literary genius in the making. And quit trying to write everything with pointless exposition that doesn't mean a goddamn thing. This is what separates professional authors from fan fiction writers.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love to RP, and I love to try and RP in MMOs, but the fact some of you don't even try really kills that immersion half of you bitch about but don't even bother sticking to yourself. And don't sit there and try to describe every inch of your action just to say you stifle a yawn; that is not good role-playing. In other words, quit trying so hard to sound impressive when you are making yourself look like a tool.

Maybe it's the lack of tools in the medium (but then again, in UO the RP was top notch and the number of physical emotes we had was two) compared the tripe we see in the modern MMO. In the end, it's just getting bad and a complete turn off seeing so much immersion breaking and bad RP being used.

October 15, 2011

Remembering City of Villains -- The Faction Oft Forgot.

I still have sometime before I get swallowed up for a day or two by Deus Ex: Missing Link DLC, so I figured I will sit back and talk about a few things conversely in City of Heroes. Namely game play and content and what should have happened. Of course, my view is objectivist, but I know it is a view that many others share or have shared in the past and I still feel as strongly as I did about them in the past as I do now.

Now the first thing I want to get out of the way is something I touched on quite a bit in my last review of City of Heroes, and that's the graphics. I don't care what anyone says, they look like shit, and Paragon should have been spending all that time at least upgrading and updating the poly count and textures. Seriously, those ancient models need to be replaced. I don't personally care if they don't add more costume locations or change the sliders much past what they can do now, but this entire system of keeping everything looking like it Deus Ex 1 is just piss poor design decisions, especially since so much time was devoted to adding new graphical features such as occlusion, real time shadows and reflections and water. Saying it would be impossible or it can't be done is just one big ass lying bullshit excuse, especially considering the new textures and costume bits and character models in the game, not to mention Mythic has proven that wrong already.

That being said, let's get to the heart of what is on my mind concerning City of Heroes, and actually it has to do realistically with City of Villains. Technically, City of Villains doesn't exist anymore, no matter what anyone says. It's currently occupying the afterthought sweepstakes spot behind City of Heroes. And despite any attempt to the contrary to say it, City of Villains actually gets as little recognition in any ads and updates as possible. Ironic considering the alignment system they aped hardcore during the Going Rogue hype train. But then again, like I said back then, I personally feel Paragon/NCSoft would get rid of City of Villains and just make them extended hero zones if they think they can get away with it.

At one time this side of the game use to actually receive some merit, but because things didn't start out like they planned, instead of actually trying to hype up that side of the game and improve upon it, they instead let it rot. Anything new that was added to City of Heroes the villain side was not allowed to actually partake in or, were just tag a long's in the overall story arc. This resulted in a lot of pissed off players and ironically the few times villains did receive anything the hero side of everything threw a basic temper tantrum saying how it was unfair, but considering how little villains actually received for the most part told us to deal with it or roll heroes.

However, that's the past and the current game is the current game but there is still a lot of things that Paragon should have done and fixed in the game as it stands today but evidently they refuse to. Namely the utter lack of game content villain side. Now, you will undoubtedly have the jackass mentality that states you can swap sides at your leisure but some people do not want to do that. It falls on the same coals as the argument to find another game from the dick heads over in Champions that are afraid of team style game play.

Many solutions have been presented and honestly, it astounds me that they still have ignored it even to this day. When the revamped Faultline zone was introduced into City of Heroes, Paragon miss-stepped so hard that they fell through the ground. This zone was perfect in setting up a competitive PvE environment and many people agreed with that, except for the asshats who felt that it would ruin their immersion which they could never honestly give one legitimate reason to actually back up on.

There were many ways to handle such things to give villains more content without having o invent new zones, it just boils down to the fact that the devs were lazy and rather listen to the minority instead of actually making the underdeveloped game side actually be competitive, content wise. Even to this day City of Villains has a glaring lack of content, and things like the Shadow Shard, the Warzones, and Faultline should have been opened up to them, but for whatever reason was decided they shouldn't.

It's one of those Greek style tragedies and of course Paragon probably trying to just sweep the entire affair under the rug. The fact they aped alignment shifting in Going Rogue seems to be their laughingly pathetic excuse to rectify the actual problem to.

In the end a lot should have been done. City of Heroes still suffers from the fact it caters too much to one faction and it shocks me when things are actually done in favor of villains. In fact, there is an actual bit of displeasure, from what I have been reading, that villains have actually been getting the benefit of the new story arc in the game. Rather impresses me. Even to the point that I've also heard that it's a boggle that some heroes even debate going villain side to get patron powers. But honestly, it really isn't even that much of a choice since going villain side is a temporary thing and can be rectified after only a few days.

There's a lot that needs to be changed in City of Heroes, honestly. But I doubt much will for a while, if at all. The games dated even if some people try to hold on like it's the best thing evar to happen.

October 13, 2011

Reviewing Champions Online -- Schizophrenia Incarnate

Edit: I have just read that the F2P for DCUO will be on the 19th of October. So, barring anything unusual (such as the Missing Link actually launching the 18th) I should hopefully have an overview going out a week or so after. I am trying to go into the F2P of DCUO without the meh attitude I got during the beta.

Last time I talked about City of Heroes, and DCUO is still not on the horizon as free to play yet, I decided I am going to talk about Champions Online today. Champions Online is again another game from Cryptic and is actually the IP that City of Heroes was based on. That being said, everything that Cryptic wanted City of Heroes to be is not what Champions Online became. Instead it's just a giant hodge-podge mess of a game that doesn't know what it wants to be in the end, and the hardcore minority players do everything in their power to sabotage any future the game has.

Graphically there isn't much to say about the game. It's one of the best visual experiences out there with only a few minor quibbles here and there and perhaps the most robust and detailed character editor/costume creator you can find on the market (outside of spray painting your shirts in APB). You have a plethora of costume choices, a ton of locations an varieties you can actually edit said locations with many, many different color choices and mish mashes to come up with on top of the ability to control finer details of your character such as arm length, hand size, and many other features that are often over looked in face of generic texture skins.

But one cannot play a game based on Barbie Dress Up and outside of the awesome character creator, despite all feelings to the contrary, Champions Online offers painfully little to the actual genre that it is suppose to be appealing to. This is a glaring weakness that overpowers the sun and will immediately strike anyone in the face as soon as they enter into the world itself.

I have to say, Champions Online is a game trying too hard. They are trying to do so much to appease everyone and focus on the small group of vocalists they have forgotten they are trying to make a game that appeals to a much larger crowd and not the lowest common denominator minority group. They've appealed to the weakest link so much it's filled into the game as a whole, and the result is the game keeps losing the interest of the very people they keep trying to appease because they listened too much to them.

Champions Online is a game with too much going on and too little content. That's hard to quantify, but basically there is a thing that is too much of something but not enough. Champions has no endgame content, and again, like with City of Heroes, offers a ton of starter content but the middle and ending of it suffers all in favor of the alters who can't be bothered to play a character longer than 5 minutes until they make a new one.

The powers system itself is an abysmal mess as well, where there is no clear cut definition to help characters, and the one thing this system is crying for is constantly denied at every avenue to have it implemented. In this case dual power builds. The powers system in Champions is, to put it mildly, schizophrenic, it suffers from bloat but offers no clear, concise path to how a hero should be built. Powers are little more than a hodge-podge, at best, and while powers can be chained together, even if wildly different, there is little that actually synergizes. About the only real option you have is building a tank mage, as support characters are pretty much non-existant in this mess and any attempt to do so will be met with derision from the masses if you even dare suggest making the roles stronger.

In fact the entire set up is just bad. In comics and stories, heroes are a combination of things, but Champions took the route of listening to a select group of people and instead of sticking to their guns and actually putting some control in, allowed them to dictate that characters should be able to pick and get everything. Sorry, this is not how super heroes are actually created. Super heroes have their combat skill, or lack thereof, their powers, then they have a signature ability or abilities that define them. Sometimes two or three of these parts are all the same but that is always constant.

The powers system has to be one of the worst things about Champions. Because of how it works, people are forced into specific powers regardless of desire or intent, if you are freeform. Even if you had a concept build or something trying to stick with that build will be met with disdain and contempt from fellow gamers who spend most of their time meta gaming and basically doing everything they can to build the ultimate build, regardless of final intent of the user to actually have a character that might actually fit these powers and abilities. It's not so much build the hero you want as it is build a schizophrenic character that has no clue what they are.

Content here is lacking as well. Following the dogged WoW model of go to contact and get the dude smack down quota system, there is little that actually challenges many except the most inept of builds or players. While some will contest that heroes should be unstoppable, this is not what makes a hero. A hero and a badass are not just unstoppable forces that can finger flick things out of the way. A hero and or badass is defined by someone who can fight against the odds, rise to the challenge and overcome them through their tenacity, injuries and sheer intelligence. A character who can do everything, destroy everything or be unhurt by anything is not a badass or hero, they are a boring character, and this is the crux of another problem with Champions.

Champions is a boring game because there is no challenge. It's all single player style, and anyone who says that is a good thing doesn't deserve to play MMOs and should go back to their single player games. MMOs are defined as games where people join together to do things and be a community about them. This decided take from the idiot minority in Champions that heroes should never break a sweat against anything or never team up is both stupid and yet another thing that is killing the game.

When there is no challenge no one wants to stick around for an encore of the same thing and this is yet another problem with Champions; everything is handed on a silver platter. Any reward you want you can practically get without effort. This is terrible design decision because it bores people further and makes them not want to play because they have nothing to work for. This is something the lowest common denominator minority can't get through their thick skulls. They think people love this game style yet everyday you can see the numbers dwindling out of each of the zones. People want to feel they earned something and if it's handed on a silver platter where minimal effort is required, even on the most difficult setting, then this is terrible design decision

And that brings up the community. This is something I didn't touch on with City of Heroes, because it slipped my mind. However, to put a small blurb in, despite how dated that game is, the community is still top notch. There are the asshats, as expected, but for the most part people are genuinely trying to help other people or create events or just trying to be friendly.

Not so in Champions. Oh, regardless of how some people try to claim, Champions has one of the most egotistical communities out there. The forums are rife with it despite anyone's claims to the contrary and the if you aren't playing someone else's way, no matter how much they call freedom of choice and such, they will shoot you down. And if you even bring up endgame and raid content in those forums, or even in game, you will be met by the same people trying to tell you to go play some other game. It's the same attitude that games like WoW have, and the sad part is they try to sit there and say they are the superior community.

Overall, Champions Online is the victim of a lot of expectations that were never met. The super hero expectations were never met, the better City of Heroes expectations were never met, and the large world of Champions IP was never really met. There was a magic point in the beta where things were almost perfect, but then Cryptic started listening to a group of loudmouths to implement specific features. And as those features got added more people quit.

In the end, Champions is promising a lot for its future, but it has to get over the hurdle of listening too much to the minority there. The game has suffered for it and its constantly in an imbalanced state. The freeform combat system is nice and all, but you never feel challenged. Cryptic is stating that the level cap will be going up to 45 then 50 and endgame will be added, but somehow, considering they thought UNITY was suppose to be endgame, I have serious doubts about it.

DCUO will hopefully hit F2P soon. Honestly, I think they have the right ideas just poor implementation, and of course too few actual super powers. I guess I will see what the last 10 months have done for DCUO when I actually get into the F2P.

October 2, 2011

Reviewing City of Heroes: Freedom -- Nostalgic trip, does it hold up?

One thing I have been sitting here and thinking about is all the games I have played. I've been wanting to do a compare and contrast, so in this case I will do City of Heroes versus Champions Online in a mild sense. I wanted to actually put DC Universe Online in the mix, but since the F2P isn't out just yet, I guess I will actually write about that later and probably put in some points in its own little article to try and give some comparisons between each of the games.

Anyways, CoH just recently went F2P. In short, the entire model is a copy and paste of the model that Cryptic developed for CO, but with a few modifications here and there, and a hell of a lot looser morals. But, that is something to cover as I go over a bit more later. Over all, they put a few things in that actually was sound, logically, but there are many other things to complain about because they basically took what should be standard services and told people tough shit, buy it.

My character using older
textures. Just taken
the day of this blog,
and the art everyone uses,
unless they buy costumes.
Now, what got me to go ahead and go back and check out 'City of' was just simple nostalgia, and honestly that is the only reason anyone could actually go back. I know many say it's just preference for this or that, but honestly, those people are going to hell for lying because as great as 'City of' was in its time, the game has not aged well, and one could even argue that it was dated before it even launched. In fact the compare and contrast is so bad that the so called Ultra Mode that 'City of' has actually makes the graphics look worse when they are turned on instead of better. Yes, I am saying it may be better to play the game with modern graphic features like occlusion, real time shadows and the like off, because 'City of' actually looks worse with the effects on.

This isn't helped by the fact that graphically, all the new stuff is a higher resolution texture slapped on the ancient, super low polygon character models. This creates some rather jarring contrasts between body and new features like new head types and such. It's almost painful to put new costume pieces on characters with these ancient character models. This is where me being spoiled by actually being able to create a realistic looking body comes in, because in CoH the body proportion distortion is just painfully obvious. Even the shortest legs are too long for the average female, and this is just my mind trying to ignore the facts that characters have mitten hands (ie no fingers) and boxed feet (no toes); two things I am definitely spoiled for, from Champions.

But I digress, you can't just rate a game on pure graphics alone, even though graphics can be a number one reason why you end up stop playing. Seriously, I can compare 'City of' graphically to Deus Ex one (yes, the first game) and graphically they would be similar in many respects, with very little to differentiate either of them. So, to cut to the end on graphics, they look like pure ass. Again, people will say it's just preference or style or what have you, but seriously no. The graphics look like ass, and ironically, compared to Champions, look more cartoony (which is hilarious since many complaints I heard from people before was Champions had cartoony graphics). So easily Champions is definitely the better game graphically. Hell even the animations tend to piss me off in 'City of' with either very sloppy animations, or animations that look half done. The female walk, the typical style male fantasy female runway walk has a jarring and rather disgusting ability to move the female spine in such a way that her lower back actually seems to be physically disconnecting from their upper chest. And the special dances (you have to buy) I don't even want to get on those on just how poorly animated they are.

Now, next on the list I would have to say the UI. There are things I would take away from this UI in a heartbeat honestly. Namely the split chat box and the ability to have more than one chat box. But after I consider that, there is actually very little else I would want. Seriously, the UI is actually slow and clunky, as typing doesn't update in real time. The game actually produces and audible beep for each character you input when typing, and it's roughly a half second from button push to actual character popping in the UI. Considering how fast I can type, I've actually had to slow down in many cases because I would actually type faster than the UI could register, which would have the downside of actually producing, what I call, the multiple window explosion syndrome, where specific bound default keys open up various windows whether you wanted them or not. Now, for slow typer's, that's not a bad thing, but for people that actually learned to type and don't hunt and peck, that's a bit of a detrimental thing.

Now what follows is controls, over all the controls are solid, albeit programmed in that kind of turn based combat system. Now some people might not understand this idea. But what it basically means that actions have to sort of follow a bit of strict rules. It's not going to be easy to explain so I might as well get into the heart of the combat system. 'City of' combat is very strictly turn based. That means it follows the ancient global cool down and everything has a certain attack period and fire time. Nothing else can happen while X is going on and any attempt to change that gets met with the system telling you to basically piss off. If you are used to games where combat is more free flowing and you can cancel an action or chain various attacks together, you are going to find this type of system painfully slow and clunky and, at many times, boring as hell.

Mother Mayhem: High
Resolution texture model
added recently. Mostly,
reserved for new NPCs or
new costume packs.
Now, onto the powers in each. Granted at first glance 'City of' actually has a ton of powers, until you actually stop being a twit and actually start reading and looking. Then you realize a lot of powers are copy and paste of each other rearranged with very little to differentiate them from one set to another. Almost all the fire melee sets are the exact same with little to change up, and might even share a few powers with the ranged fire powers. Now, 'City of' still probably has the edge in the sheer number of variety powers, however, but people always try to say the game has a ton of powers, but you can probably cut that ton in half because at least half the sets are copy and pastes.

There is variety there but a lot of the set pieces are starting to repeat themselves. On top of that, as far as the power system is set up, the entire power system is based on a system of chain attacks, IE you go down from one attack to the next to the next. In short, instead of being able to just keep attacking, you use what amounts to filler attacks while you wait for the cool down on each effect to end. I guess some people like that type of combat, but overall I find it clunky in the end. I am use to active combat that when I push a button I expect the effect to happen and if I am fighting I can actually defend myself. There are some things I liked about certain powers and such but overall system is just too damn slow and really doesn't espouse the heroic defender of justice feel that some people might be looking for when it concerns combat.

Now, here is probably going to be the clincher for a lot of people; content. Now, 'City of' has several years worth of content. And, just looking at it from the outside, that's a lot of content. However, here's the problem with the content; You go to a contact, get a mission, usually with flavor text sometimes in an attempt to be in a story, go to an instance and fight group of mobs to complete the mission or reach a specific objective. Sounds simple and basic and pretty standard. Except this is the same model used for almost every mission you enter. There is very little to differentiate one mission from another, except maybe the wallpaper, which there is painfully obvious few actual varieties of.

It's almost the same with every enemy group as well. Depending on how much "challenge" you give yourself, you fight the same group of mobs with different skins and sometimes different powers, but overall the same set up. Two groups will be at +1 level to you by default in an attempt to give added challenge to an otherwise mundane instance and early on it can be but once you hit 20 that should not even be a worry for whatever character you create.

My character from Champions
dressed similarly, with a few
extra options and not utilizing
all costume spots.
To side track myself, that brings up another point. I actually stopped in to do the tutorial for this, and to be blunt, this tutorial was obviously an afterthought or incredibly rushed. The map made me think of the Shadow Shard a couple of floating islands, but that wasn't supposed to be how it feels but that was exactly how it felt. The entire Galaxy City was wiped out (technically not since you can go to its Echo) and the entire tutorial has you doing things that you will never do in the game unless you are a subscriber and you get to endgame. In fact it has the Open Mission set up in the tutorial (that only appears in Praetoria) with a boss fight (a type you only encounter in a incarnate trial). The end result is a bunch of crap you never actually get to play with unless you subscribe which is kind of a jarring kick in the teeth of free to play accounts, in my opinion. I won't say Champions tutorial is a bed of roses, in fact I think it needs more work, but overall the tutorial in 'City of' is just one jarring rushed mess. At no point do you feel like you are in a crumbling city.

But that brings me to endgame. This, again is a sticking point because only people that pay a subscription actually get to participate in this. Endgame is alright, part of me does like how it's set up. I do like they finally added raids and there are things and objectives to earn and such along the way. But, they are set up in a way that organization is not a top priority. That's not a completely bad thing, mind you, but I can't say it's all good. On top of that, the incarnate system, if someone really wanted to, they could get the top tier in all their incarnate powers in less than a month. IE less than a subscription time. Now it takes work, and I am not completely against that, but I do feel they might have made it too easy.

But then again, that's a lot more endgame than Champions currently has. The lunacy that seems to be infecting some people there over endgame content is just hilarious, especially the people that think it would be unfair that certain content taking raids. Those are, of course, the type of people who either base their claims on hearsay or make up stories about limited time and such due to sob stories of family and three jobs and the like. To which I ask, then what the hell are you doing worry about an internet game? Regardless, hopefully Champions will be bringing an endgame and stop catering to the lowest common denominator that thinks everything needs to be soloable. Time to grow up people.

So, here comes my round-a-bout to the Paragon store. I said earlier I do like how the store was set up to do certain things like buying individual pieces for costumes instead of whole things, but then I looked deeper and further, many basic services, like a height slider cost $15 bucks to buy (a feature that was offered as part of the science costume pack expansion that gave emotes, costume pieces, costume change emotes, a power and the slider for $10). That is a ludicrous price. And the next thing that burns my bacon and made me stop caring the minute I saw it, Parago/NCSoft completely reneged on their promise to never have pay2win items in their store. And sure enough, pay2win enhancements are there.

The costs of many things are just out of whack. If you look at just costumes, you think you are getting a damn good bargain, especially when looking at costumes from CO since those come in bundles (currently). But then you add up the price for each piece (and mind you CoH doesn't even have half as many costume locations as Champions does) then costume sets start becoming more expensive. On top of that, the special powers like travel powers and such (which can't even be upgraded either) cost more than travel powers or archetypes (if you are silver) in the CO store. In the end, I just find the CoH store to be one big rip off compared to the CO store.

In the end, the only reason I've decided to even bother logging into CoH now is just to visit friends. The game play wears thin very fast after a few hours, and the store leaves an extremely bad taste in your mouth, especially when applying the newer high resolution items on the outdated, ugly, low poly, low resolution character models. Add in poor proportioning and the fact I am spoiled by a costume editor that is nearly triple the depth of CoH in choice and positioning, and freedom on what to do, from sliders to personal settings and costume spots, not to mention ass graphics and slow game play, it's hard to actually get into it seriously for any length of time. Some people will always say that will be preference, but realistically, that's just nostalgia. There are things I would want from 'City of' implemented in Champions, but in the end I prefer Champions over all, the game play is more solid and the game doesn't actually look like so much ass that you laugh at how jagged a statue looks from across the city.

September 22, 2011

Rinse and Repeat: The De-Evolution of MMOs

Sometimes, you keep wondering to yourself why you always feel meh about things and when you keep searching long enough the answer actually presents itself to you in an unusual way you didn't expect. For a long time I have been pretty meh about the state of the MMO market as it stands. Now while people will say WoW is as good as it's going to get, and people that say that are going straight to Hell for lying, I on the other hand have been around to know that MMOs have been better and that WoW, regardless of mass media appeal, is actually a large step backwards from where things originally started from.

Now while I expect people to come around and try to explain to me why World of Warcraft isn't much more than piss wiffle, I am just going to put forth why I don't care. I've been playing MMOs far longer than most of the 'internet celebrities' with opinions actually have. I have actually been around this particular bush many, many times. And while the average WoWonaut will probably tell me how much skill it takes to down a raid boss that performs a repeated pattern, I will just remind them to keep listening to the bells and whistles of DeadlyBossMod to tell them how to play like a well trained terrier.

Needless to say, I am not going to sit here and try to claim WoW is a bad game, it's just not anywhere as great as people think it is. In fact, the whole genre has been stagnating thanks to that behemoth because everyone is trying to be just like them. But I digress, this is about the revelation I came to a while back ago and how I came about it.

The reason the current and has been for a while generation of MMOs has been one massive train of disappointment for me after another is plain and simple actually. For all the boasting of choice these games falsely spout, there is no choice in them. No matter if I am making a mage in Warcraft or a blaster in City of Heroes, the end result is the same; I am building someone to kill a specific group of dudes. There is no difference between either, and the solution is always the same; build up power to be able to kill more dudes.

Of course people will always try to point out the extreme cases, like the hopeless person who made it to level 85 without doing a single quest and just leveled up on gathering experience. I just shake my head though because those are called fringe cases, and are exceptionally extreme. People who point that out as alternative ways to level in these types of games are just desperate and wrong no matter how they try to slice it. Just because someone did it doesn't make it viable. So quit trying to pass off that extreme nut jobs doing something like that is a viable leveling tactic, in other words. If a person can't play the game like that normally and have equal returns to someone just pounding away on critters, then it's not a viable leveling tactic and trying to pass it off as such just shows how much of a moron you really are.

So, back on point, again. Recently I got my hands on the third installment of Deus Ex. I won't say the game play was wildly phenomenal or even superior to anything else out there, but I will say the game reminded me of what I was actually missing when it concerned my MMO gaming; actual game play choice. What do I mean? Well minus the obvious boss fights in the game, throughout most of Deus Ex I had multiple choices to actually handling almost every situation. I could be the gun ho shoot 'em up type, I could be the sneaky avoid them type avoiding violence where I can, I could go into ducts and avoid stuff, I could be more direct but still sneaky, I could even hack computers and turn the defenses against the enemy. And as small as those choices were, by contrast to where I am going, this was still way more choice than the current generation of MMOs has offered in a very long time.

Let me try and qualify that. Now, I've basically admitted that I've played UO since December of 1997, which makes me a fairly old MMO gamer. Now while certain groups of people hate on MMOs for being grindy or whatever common denouncement they are given, MMOs back then were started to be their own little, breathing worlds where the player could freely do what they wanted. Though by technical standards, UO was pretty inferior, you could still be a warrior, mage or rogue in the traditional sense, but I could also be a blacksmith, a tailor, a fisher, a house builder, a treasure hunter and many other more options that did not involve me once picking up a sword or casting a hostile spell at monsters. There was true choice in the system. I could decide to spend all my game life, if I wanted to, mining a mountain and forging the material into armor and weapons for others to buy. That was the game I fell in love with and got me into MMOs, a system on true choice.

But, as I stated before, UO was inferior, but in many ways, is still the superior game when compared to the current market of games (if you compare classic UO before itemization to what is offered on the market now). What limited the game was it was a sandbox with no real framework. There was no story, though many of us actually made up quite a bit of it. The adventure was to be had by the whim of the players, and the whim of the players could dictate many things in the world. There were events held by GMs that created many unique features on different shards and the results were fascinating as there was actual history and weight to each individual shard as it grew and became its own entity. UO was truly alive, even if technologically inferior.

However, the market has since changed and de-evolved, as I will put it, into games that hand hold and pretty much tell people what to do and disguise the lack of choice behind mountains of speech bubbles and false choice systems. The end result is always the same, no matter the path taken and it's just one boring mess. Most people know they are bored but they've tricked themselves into believing it's fun and exciting. And it is truly a sad thing to me to watch these games try and pretend they have these great communities when nothing in the world is like how UO was. Nostalgia might be powerful but when entire shards would come together for events and help to do things, that speaks many volumes of words.

Honestly, I want an MMO that gives me real choices again. Not some faux talent system that still only leaves me with one way to handle every situation; mass genocide. I want to be able to go into a game world and actually play different ways, not have to slaughter most if not all the critters in a single location just to achieve something. Multiple avenues and objectives work out way better. Hell, even awarding players for not killing everything or being stealthy would be way better.

I don't expect a return to crafting style game play, that would actually require that developers actually care that much about the game they are developing that they would want to see the world to become a living breathing entity, but I would actually want a real choice system in playing and creating characters. I want the option to be able to stealth through the wave  of baddies with an objective that rewards me for thinking outside of the box instead of only giving me the pay off if I spent several minutes chipping away at a bosses large health pool. Methods that reward me for either avoiding the fight, using the enemies against one another or just plain being smart would go a long way. The current MMO gaming formula rewards the dumbest ideas for the dumbest players in the dumbest ways. It's grossly pathetic to be blunt.

I don't know what to expect out of the new games on the horizon. They are touting voice over's and stories as the big things, which seems all and well, but what about the real game, the real choices? Can I actually sneak into the big base and get the data file or do I need to kick down the doors, and fulfill the 100 dude smack down of the standard MMO?

In closing, I will reiterate my basic stance on the current two MMOs that are coming out in the near future; TOR and TSW. TOR will just be more of the same crap. TSW on the other hand, looks like it might offer something, but I am afraid it won't do it quite as I expected and it will also fall into that trap of doing more of the same. In short, whether people believe it or not, for the past decade every big name game with the exception of one or two has been the same game constantly remade with a new skin by a new company, changing very little of the formula and forgetting what made the granddaddy, UO, so popular. How I wish UO2 was being put back on the burner to be cooked and made with some updating and definitely a graphical over haul.

Guess that leads back to the UO2 emblem on the top. Now, back then the idea was to include story in a 3d version of UO with an actual change to the world. But the story would not come at the cost of everything that made the original UO great. In fact it would build upon it. But, as all things went, something happened and EA closed it down. I don't ever expect EA to try again, but I think it would go that a UO2 using modern graphics, built on what UO started, adding story and and streamlining the game play would most definitely attract a crowd.

August 26, 2011

Reviewing Deus Ex: Human Revolution

It's been sometime since I've actually decided to review a single player game. But I think I am due for one, especially a high profile game like this that I am sure many others will be spouting their reviews and personal opinions about. Of course, mine is but one opinion of many, and what I am going to do is try to keep from spoiling things and just boil out the heart itself, the actual game play and how it handles.

Now, let me get the first bit out of the way; I do not care for Squeenix. At all. Like you couldn't even pay me to actually like them anymore. I use to be a fangirl big time, back with the original Final Fantasy games on Nintendo, back when they tried to sell the story and the game as one complete whole instead of isolating them as complete separate entities locked behind a wall of glaringly painful graphics in front of a matte painting backdrop that removed any sense of their actual belonging there.

I loved Final Fantasy 1, 2 and 3 or for those who have to be politically correct 1, 4, and 6 in Japan. The original is extremely dated now, and it's a very basic hack and slash RPG, but Final Fantasy 2(4) and 3(6) introduced not only very powerful game play elements, but an engrossing story that captured the mind and kept wanting you to see more of it. These things orchestrated, in my mind, a company that actually cared and wanted to deliver the best they could despite the limitations of the hardware they were using, you wanted to explore the world, to see what was offered and ask what else is there and even the tiniest things kept you asking, what are they hiding.

But when Squaresoft decided to jump on the Sony Playstation wagon, all that magic and wonder was lost as they got mired in the idea that just selling pretty graphics is enough, the rest of the game isn't as necessary. You can see this philosophy a lot in their latest iterations of Final Fantasy as well as that bombshell of a movie they called The Spirits Within. It's just been awful and it just makes me shake my head how many people think that train wreck of a game, Final Fantasy 7, is the pinnacle of the entire series. How low your bar must be set if you think that dross of a go nowhere, convoluted and no story game is actually remotely as high as the bar set by Final Fantasy 2 and 3.

But that is another story for another time. Instead I am here to talk about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Again, my mind had already been set that this game wasn't going to bear witness to the fruit that the original game garnered in its fan base. Honestly, I can't say I was ever a fan of the original Deus Ex, not because I didn't like it, but because I never actually had the pleasure of playing it. So I will be looking at this from the point of view of a new comer into the series of games.

I can safely say that hurdle has been overcome because I think, for the first time in a long time, I've actually entered a game I feel immersed into. I get into the spirit of the stealth, I get into the wonderment and curiosity the conspiracy theories invoke, and I certainly feel a bit of a small rush when I did something dumb and I am hiding from all the guards in the area as they do a search for me. The game play is very much a choose your own adventure thing, but on top of that, you are given the freedom to decide how to handle all the situations, from being a gung ho hero to being a Solid Snake style sneak and covert op. I am sure there is a game play style for everyone in this.

Another thing I rather enjoy about the game is that there is a sense that you actually have to pay attention, not just to environment, but to your inventory and your various messages and clues you receive. Though the game does track a lot of things, not everything is, and just randomly pushing buttons can end you in either a situation that can hurt you, or even worse, a quick death and speedy trip back to your last save. And if you aren't a diligent saver, that can be a long ways back for many.

As I said previously, it's been a long time I've ever actually felt this immersed in a game before. I want to get around the next corner, I want to unlock that door and find out what secrets are in it, but do I fly the straight and narrow, or am I the stealthy thief, that robs people blind, or am I the cold blooded killer that shoots first, shoots second, shoots some more, and then when everything is dead I think about the question to ask? These are the things you get a hold of and I am sure I am still not doing it justice.

I haven't finished the game yet, I still take breaks here and there to give me a moment to think my way around a situation I've found myself in currently in the game. Current run through I am playing stealthily and so far I can say other than the tutorial, I haven't killed a soul yet. From what I am told that still negates me from the achievement due to the tutorial, but I will gung ho in another play through. The game has presented itself a challenge to me, it actually encourages me to think, and I love that, something many games lack in this day and age.

But, and there is always a but, I have to say there are things that annoy me about it and they are just petty gripes that I think people can ignore for the most part. My first complaint is the voice acting. Now, I can't say voice acting in the video game industry will win any awards anytime soon. Most of the voice actors sound like they are less enthused than the voice actors for cartoons. But here it's almost whimsical how many of the voice actors say their lines. And I don't even think that they were trying to go that route, but it really doesn't sound like they were on the same page that the line delivered should have been. From Adam Jensen's wannabe Bale Batman gravelly voice sound to Mikal's flippant serious to bubbly voice acting, it's hard to get the idea that it was suppose to be serious. Some though delivered their lines perfectly, but most just sound out of place, but I think that also is because of the second point.

The animations during cut scenes and the like. They are so whimsical and poorly animated that you can't help but be sucked right out of what you were enjoying in the immersion. For me, I almost have to stop watching and either just keep reading the subtitles to ignore it, or turn my head and just listen. The character animations for these tense, talky choice scenes are poor, and that's being nice. The characters animate like marionettes from an amateur in the next room, and in some places, like with augmented people, the actual joints themselves appear to almost break off at points before quickly reattaching themselves to the original body. This and the voice acting can end up yanking someone out of the immersion they might have been experiencing. It's perhaps the biggest complaint I got, and it's a tad petty.

The only other thing that drives me up a wall is the interacting distance. Maybe I got use to other games too much where they were a bit gracious on the distance, but in DX:HR you pretty much have to be standing on top of objects before interacting with them works properly. And in a game where stealth is key that can add a bit more drama to moments. But that is only personal preference and probably from being spoiled by the dross of games over the past few years lately.

So far, I would recommend this to anyone who would be interested and would prefer a game that actually encourages exploration, thinking outside of the box, and above all else, not pretending to be a bullet absorbent badass that has no fear of consequences. Though that option is present, you still have to think tactically if you are to survive.

Oh, and that first boss fight is a pain in the ass. It will definitely piss off the people who play HALO (a POS FPS game that somehow gets hailed as the greatest thing evah) and such expecting to deflect bullets with their chins. If you're going in expecting to take 8 billion bullets before death, well, you probably won't like this game very much. However, if you want to use tactics, play using smarts and actually exploiting weaknesses instead of battles of attrition based on who can fire the most bullets, then this might be the game for you, especially if you love conspiracy theory thrillers.

August 20, 2011

Maturity of the Internet

A common poll type or complaint you will see often spouted out at random are the terms "kiddies" "kids" or "under age." It's a rather interesting concept that these people have, because they spout on about the age of an individual as if it were a gateway to describe what they are really on about; maturity.

What fascinates me about this is how many people, themselves, are being immature and juvenile about the subject when they sit there and profile a person based on their age as if that was the only bracket that was prone to such things. Of course, this trend has been around for as long as the MMO market has, and it's rather hilarious that people believe that people under the age of 18 are the ones largely responsible for the juvenile and immature behaviors that happen in an MMO these days.

In the time I have spent in MMO gaming, the average age of most MMO gamers typically falls in the mid 20s to mid 30s bracket, regardless of what people say. And most of the time, it's this bracket, I find at least, that is also the most immature. But immaturity really knows no age bracket, and you will find it everywhere, but in an ironic twist it's typically the under aged people I run into that are typically the more mature.

What really fascinates me about posts like this are how juvenile and immature they are about it to begin with. You will see all manner of slander and hypocrisy being spouted at every which turn from the post about people under a specific age being the problem with games, but not once will they even acknowledge that immaturity knows no age limit. Hell, I've seen people even go so far as to try and recommend adult servers to "keep out the kiddies" as if that is going to stop immaturity when it's generally the people of those age brackets conducting the problems.

Just one of those things that all you can really do is shake your head at. 

August 19, 2011

My Thoughts on Warzone: Huttball

Warzone: Huttball is the most recent announcement from Gamescon and this Friday update over on the official SW:TOR website, it has garnered mixed reviews from a lot of people on the various forums and places that have sprung up. Of course, the most hardcore naysayers are those that are generally throwing out words I've talked about already; immersion. Honestly, at this point I definitely do feel they don't know what that word means.

My personal view on Huttball; honestly if people wanted something new and different, well hell look no further. I don't think I would of ever thought up something like this anytime on my own, and the ironic thing is when I was a kid I loved an arcade game based on Rugby (I even think that was it's name, but I am not sure) where it was basically set in a medieval time period with two teams basically playing rugby, with all sorts of hazards on the field, swords and including a troll. It was a fun game if not silly. And that's what Huttball is reminding me of.

Of course, I am sure 'The Pit' is going to be much different than the field of rugby, and the traps definitely look more hazardous but from the concepts I've seen this looks like it will actually be something injected, especially on the side of PvP, that will be fun and different from the tired old tripe of kill till someone dies or just sit and hold a point until a counter runs up or out.

Some will compare Huttball to Capture the Flag style game play, and in a way I guess it shares some similarities, but I don't recall having to run the flag to the enemy side to win. This is going to be a true e-sport in the most basic sense of the word. There are goal posts on either side and players are being encouraged to basically play rugby. Honestly, I can't wait to try this out because it is definitely something new and different, at least on the front of the MMO side of things.

August 16, 2011

The hatred of roles

One thing that seemingly crops up regularly in forums is a rather pervasive, and misguided, attempt by certain individuals or groups of individuals to sit back and bash specific systems within a game. It's almost as universal as breathing these days when it concerns video games. One of these almost reviled by a select demographic of gamers is the roles systems that many MMOs typically espouse to.

Now, if you were to hear how people tell these stories, the majority of misinformed opinions typically go along the lines of "roles (or the holy trinity as it is often called) is an outdated system that promote elitism and hurts games." To call that line of thinking bullshit would be an understatement. I am not saying that roles are necessary in all things, in fact I do feel that a game should be playable at any time solo up to a point. However, I've seen these people go so far as to try and proclaim how outmoded these systems are by stating that people don't assume roles in real life. Okay, here's where I call you on your bullshit.

First and foremost, in almost everything these days, people are assigned roles within jobs and things of that nature. They might not be described as tank, support and DPS but you are assigned a role. Everyone from the fast food employee to someone working at Wal Mart is assigned a role. Generally they are assigned the role they are best at, though some businesses think it is hilarious if they keep swapping people around. Mostly retail, but there are many other types of jobs.

Of course, I've seen people sit there and say things like military don't have roles. Okay, now you're just an idiot if you believe that train of thought. Military is probably the strongest example of roles in real life. Just using the army alone, you have your infantry, your water brigade, your medical, your mechanized infantry, your artillery and many other facets. That's complex roles but every group has their own specialized career they do to handle and continue to employ to assist them in their jobs and their unit. In most cases a military unit operates as one giant team, and unlike say a retail store, people not participating in that team effort can lead to the rest of their unit actually being killed.

Hell, I've seen one person even try to state that sports do not have roles. Well hell you are just being purposely ignorant there. I can sum up American football easily in both offense and defense. Center is your Tank, linemen are your support conducting crowd control, and the backs are your DPS, driving forward with the ball to get more into enemy territory. In fact, almost every sport out there assigns people specific jobs to do and coverage. This is the heart of team play, and you can't even deny that everyone is assigned a role, and if they don't do that role, the team pretty much falls apart. Deny it all you want but that's pretty much the truth.

The problem is the self entitlement issues. Today's gamers are raised on the notion that they are special and better than everyone else and thus anything that promotes that they are equal and on level terms with another player is a bad thing, which is ironic considering MMOs are about people being on an even term with others and working together for a mutual goal. In this respect a game where they can't be the lone savior of everyone and require the aid of others goes against any grain of thinking they have. In short, it's an elitist attitude because something that requires working as a team and relying on others to achieve a mutual goal is pretty much against the common baked in concept that everyone gets in today's games that they are the lone hero capable of doing anything they choose.

It also is an entitlement issue as well, plain and simple. People feel they should be able to do everything themselves. Being a part of a team kills that idea, and since teams generally try to get people to work as a team, or dungeons require people to work as a team to succeed, this goes against every grain and fiber of peoples belief structure when it concerns their entitlements. In fact, there is a number of people that find it rather insulting that only those who work as a team to defeat the hardest stuff get the greatest rewards and there has been a very vocal group that believes they should be entitled to equal rewards for practically no effort.

They come up with worlds of solutions of course. Most of them just basically revolve around being able to bum rush bosses till they die. Basically the early Champions Online model of game play. No strategy, no thinking involved, just keep zerging the boss and win through attrition no matter how many deaths you gain. It doesn't work out well in retaining people looking for a challenge, and there are more people who prefer to be challenged than those looking for an easy victory.

It does astonish me when people get a case of the ass when 95% of a game is devoted solely to them and the 5% that's devoted for teaming they demand needs to be soloable. But like I said earlier, they will call raiders elitists, and I am far from a raider anymore, but I have to say, people that demand the game to be soloable are just as much elitist if not more so, especially when they try and say that a system that works is outmoded and then try to state it doesn't apply in real life. Play in the rest of the game that was given to you but quit trying to destroy the enjoyment of those who want to play as a team and seek a challenge from that experience. The game doesn't have to 100% cater to the wussy game style of everything handed on a silver platter to the people that say that they have a job or real life non-sense.

July 27, 2011

A Retrospective Look at Champions Online

One thing I can sit here and proclaim with any certainty is that I have been gaming with MMOs a long time. Almost 14 years in fact since December of '97 with Ultima Online. I've tried many variants of MMOs and played almost all of them, well the mainstream ones. I can even say that there is almost no MMO on the market now that I haven't beta'd either, and it's in the betas that I actually get a unique perspective few are actually privy to; actual insight into the development process and the dedication, or lack thereof, of the development team.

Today's topic is basically a retrospective on Champions Online, which was developed and being ran by Cryptic. I was pretty much in the beta of that since November of 2008, and the game that was then is definitely not the game that is today. Not by a long shot. Cryptic had the dogged tenacity to keep trying to improve systems in their engine as well as create new ones to meet the rather outlandish demands of a couple of vocal miscreants who liked to parade themselves as the voice of the gaming world. Basically, it went to the tune of "This is what I like, and naturally whatever I like the rest of the gaming world must like as well." Sadly, I think the worst part of listening to that Cryptic went too far into listening to those voices when they were so deadly wrong. Especially considering several of them were laughing stocks in the previous games they would use for their example (such as City of Heroes).

There were things that Cryptic did right, things they did wrong and things they were going in the right direction with but just should of stopped listening to specific individuals in the beta, but that's not something that can be handled at this moment. As CO currently stands it's a sort of love it and hate it situation for me. Part of me loves it but part of me hates it in its current form. The part of me that loves it is the RP part because there is so much potential (wasted mind you since today's RPers really wouldn't know RP if it bit them in the ass) and the part that hates it is there is nothing for me to do, as a high level player, in that game and all the stuff that should be getting fixed or streamlined has sat by the wayside. So, for me I am going to be analyzing a sort of what they got right and what they got wrong in this blog. Obviously, this will be different for a lot of people, but I think I have an eye for the major things.

So what's first on my list? Well let's talk about the freeform power system as it stands. Cryptic actually had the right idea when they were starting in beta with this. Originally they were going to put some major limitations on powers to keep people from getting the best of the best powers straight away and building godmode. They even dallied with the concept of builds having to be formed mostly of one power set with a few freeform options. Honestly, that second option would of been best. What they got wrong was they listened to the idiots who kept spouting crap like "freedom to build the hero you want" lines as some sort of trumpeting banner and excuse to be able to take all the best powers with no consequences.

And when they did give these people what they want, they didn't bother putting checks and balances in to make sure they were overpowered. In short, as Champions stands now, this needs to be completely revisited. I think the F2P model is a start, but for free forms, they need to be reined in. The game has been utterly destroyed because of god builds pretty much walking over content and trivializing it and in the end just forced people who wanted challenge and things to strive for to walk away in disgust. Of course, the current player base of free forms would totally disagree with this and say things like this goes against the concepts of the game, to which I say, bullshit.

Another thing on the powers front is though they were trying to do action style combat, they didn't do anything to rein in the abuse of single powers. Some powers were understandably and should be spammable.  But many of the powers should of actually had inherent cooldowns and the like. The entire energy system, as it stands, needs an honest rework. The entire concept was to use X power to build Y energy so you could unleash Z attack, however, again due to certain individuals, this ended up just becoming the current energy building system it is now and we have people who have a whole tray of powers but hardly use any but one particular power. I would also limit people to being only ever able to pick one class of a type of power and not allowing powers with similar effects to stack like it currently does. And I would also personally reconsolidate and redefine the role passives to change based on the role the player was in, not be for one specific role, and leave it to where that player actually had only one choice of passive.

One of my most massive gripes, however, is the entire role system. Originally this was going to actually be pretty damn good and offer a lot of freedom of choice. Tanks would be tanky, but not the big ole damage houses, DPS would hurt, and support would actually be able to support but not do a lot of damage. The role system was interchangeable so you could change on the fly and such and the role passives actually worked differently based on a particular role. Then things went to hell because the dipshits again (I so would love to mention their names) wanted to be able to do everything. Batman was only ever the one example they used, of course, but the whole concept of teaming got shot in the foot that moment when people started griping that they should use everything without restrictions.

To solve that, the role system would have to be revisited and checks and balances would actually have to be instituted to actually give the roles some meaning. The current system doesn't offer that, anyone with either enough damage or enough patience can be DPS or tank without any effort. There is very little point to being in brawler or avenger roles, and support is almost ignorable completely. The two biggest roles being defensive and balanced, which this is a major problem as the system stands. If these two are overshadowing everything else in your system, then we have a major problem and that needs to be fixed.

Speaking of balance, one thing that needs to be nipped in the bud now is the Death and Penalty system in Champions. In short there is none. Oh, you can get defeated and you might have a mild walk to get back to a point, but otherwise dying is just merely an inconvenience in Champions. There needs to be weight added, a penalty. Repair cost for upgrades or something. Saying that a penalty system is not required is ignoring the facts especially how people kept death zerging bosses, to the point that drastic, draconian measures had to be instituted just to make death to bosses feel more impactful. The star system is a blasé answer to it, and pretty much an absolute joke of a death penalty system. In short, this needs to be majorly over hauled as well.

This also brings me to the items. Sorry to say Cryptic, having a dream where items don't mean much in a sandbox game is all and well, but Champions is not a sandbox, it's a theme park. You've put an absolute limit on everything with a leveling system. The only way people have left to go is through upgrades. Of course it doesn't help that your stat system is convoluted to a fault but at the same time it doesn't help that your items don't even make sense. Why does offensive upgrades have a defensive stat? Why is there an offensive stat? First and foremost I would completely redo this. I would start using offensive stat on upgrades, Offensive slot items would lose defense stat in place of offense stat, and utility would get a mix of both. Defensive upgrades would get a slight boost to offset the loss. Then from there I would also add set items based only on the three primary slots, not the secondary, I would also go out and rebuild crafting and for new upgrades, people find the craftable materials in dungeons and buy the blueprints from UNTIL using things like the coalesced qliphothic essence we find.

Finally, and the big thing, endgame. You can slice it any two ways you want, but theme parks need an endgame system. You can bullshit yourself till the cows come home but if there is nothing to do when you read the end but "reroll" then people aren't going to be interested and will not bother staying around for very long after they hit the top. And hitting the top in Champions doesn't take a lot of time. This involved loot, rewards, dungeons, challenging boss fights and many other things. Raiding content to is also something that should be implemented. People play MMOs to team and socialize, and if they don't they are either lying or don't really play to begin with. We need things like this.

In the end Champions needs a lot of reworking in a lot of areas. The game might be too far along for any of such changes to be implemented, but I would like to hope that they might be able to be implemented at some point. Part of the problem is Cryptic listens too much and tries to please too many at once. Instead of focusing and sticking to their guns, they listened to a couple of nobodies to dictate how the future of the game should go, nobodies mind you who proclaimed straight up that no matter if Cryptic implemented these ideas, they still would never play the game. So now we got a bunch of crap in CO that the people who wanted it aren't even playing the game for. And make no mistake, I think the Cryptic team is very hard working, but trying to please so many at once just delivers a mediocre performance, especially when trying to please people that left long ago.

July 24, 2011

Ode to The Current Generation (short blog)

Self-entitlement seems to be an exceptionally powerful thing. Very powerful indeed with the latest generation of iPod users and people who just plop their signature down on anything people wave a pen, real or electronic, without bothering to read what they are signing. This little debate actually started just now because, of course, the self-entitled age is now in an uproar that a company has made their plans publicly known to them instead of hiding their practices in a ton of jargon.

It simply amazes me to how people will defend another company that does the exact same thing, but those same people refuse to accept that it happens anywhere else because, as typical, they didn't read their contract. I can do nothing but facepalm at this generations ability to ignore everything.

Hell sat back and got a good laugh because someone called me an idiot after I said straight up you never own the game, you only license it. People; this is true. You never own the game. You might of paid $50 to $60 bucks for it, but you never own it. The game is still rightfully the creators. You license it. All the license gives you is the right to play the game and that's pretty much it. You can try to slice it any way you want, but just because you might have a physical disk doesn't mean you own it, and hell if you want further proof go to your steam account page. It will straight up say at the top Licenses + Subscriptions right over your games.

Been seeing a lot of self entitlement proclamations lately and it has been rather jarring how stupid people have become. My favorite, of course, are people trying to use the US Constitution as a shield. It's even funnier when someone outside the country tries to use it claiming they know it better than Americans. Here's a quick education; The United States Constitution protects the US citizens from misuse by the US Government. It only affects the US Government. Privately owned businesses and corporations are unaffected by it.

Just so much going on that is nothing but one facepalm after another. Is it really a wonder that the global economy is falling apart when people are saying crap like that from other countries, not just the US?