Poll: What fall MMO expansions are you planning to play?

There are no less than six big MMO expansions coming out between now and the end of the year, and I’m curious which — if any — you’re planning to play.  Let’s take it to the polls and vote for as many or as few as apply:

Absentee Report: Guild Wars 2 and LOTRO

beorningI always wonder and occasionally fret if Bio Break readers keep track of what I’m playing — and what I *was* playing and am currently not, especially if that’s seen as an indictment of those games.  It’s a silly worry, especially since the reality is that I return to old favorite MMOs all of the time.

But in case any of you were wondering why I’ve stopped talking about Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, I’ll be up-front about it: I’m not playing them at the moment.

Guild Wars 2 is a spectacularly fine game that isn’t that “sticky” for me.  I like it when I play it, but the living world story (even in season 2) is not very compelling at all.  I haven’t played it since the September feature patch dropped, and can’t even speak much to how that impacted the game.

I don’t feel as though there’s much more in terms of gear to get without serious grinding (kids, just say NO to legendaries) and I’ve done the world exploration bit and then some.  Right now the game’s between major releases anyway, so I’m not even being tempted by the “every two weeks unless we say otherwise” cadence.  I’ll log in to collect the living world updates when they happen, but right now I’m letting my interest in the game go fallow so that it might revitalize in the future instead of burning me out on it entirely.

Lord of the Rings Online is an MMO I should play and one that I’ll undoubtedly return to — and perhaps soon.  Gondor is a generally excellent questing area, and I hear that they opened up the Dead Marshes with the recent 14.2 patch.  But right now I’m at the limit of 3 to 4 concurrent MMOs, and I am fine with taking a break from LOTRO for them.

I am pretty interested in seeing how the new Beorning class will affect the game; heck, I might even roll one.  Probably the one thing I miss the most is my awesome kinship, which will make a future re-entry that much easier.

Never enough time.  Never enough time.  I wish that I could freeze all of these games and their communities in their current state so that I could rotate through them without the passage of time pressing in.

The Secret Adventures: Monster slaying with Danny (Kingsmouth #7)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

eyeInto Darkness (Illuminati sabotage mission)

  • Around this time, I get a call from The Eye summoning me back to the Illuminati Labyrinth.  I take it and port back to NYC, then muddle my way back into the HQ.
  • The Eye tells me that a meeting at a parking lot nearby went bad and, hey, I should go investigate.  Another good TSW tip: If a mission ever sends you into a parking garage, bring a change of underwear with you because you will pee yourself.
  • Having done this one before, I know to fear no night but blitz through it while screaming at the top of my lungs.  It’s still hard not to be freaked out by the combination of oppressive darkness, the confinement of the parking structure, and bad guys popping out at you.
  • There’s a big fight with a super-wednigo and a macabre discovery of my fellow Illuminati agents.  I’m sure there’s a story behind this, but I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.  My “run like a chicken” strategy worked really well and I only had to fight a couple of times.
  • I gotta say that The Eye is one of my new favorite characters, even if he is just a disembodied voice with a penchant for memes.  “Who’s awesome?  You’re awesome.”  Yes I am.
  • I take a well-deserved break to jaunt over to London and buy a ton of clothes.  Who looks awesome?  I look awesome.

Men in Black Vans (investigation mission)

  • I have this weird relationship with Danny.  On one hand, I really love the League of Monster Slayers in this game — a group of teens who are fighting against the forces of darkness that their parents are ignoring (like the novel IT).  And Danny is the current last living member.  But on the other hand, Funcom cannot seem to make teen or kid models in this game that aren’t 100% creepy and off-model.  Danny just looks weird.
  • I’m also curious how he’s still alive.  Danny doesn’t have any firearms and his flamethrower is busted, yet he’s set up camp inside a skate park with very few natural defenses.
  • Danny mentions seeing “men in black vans” rounding up the draug, which is our cue to meet the Orochi — the organization that specializes in dying horribly all over the world.
  • The black van in question is crashed off of the side of the road and the laptop inside requires a password.  This is where some out-of-game sleuthing is required, as players have to poke around the Orochi website to figure it out.  It’s actually a clever way to get players to read up on Orochi without shoving lore in their faces.  Someone put a LOT of work into this website, and many of the Orochi subsidiaries are seen in the background of the game (such as Sycoil gasoline).
  • That password nets me a tracking device for the doohickey that Orochi is using on the draug.  This tracking device is another TSW mission staple — it’s basically a “hot or cold” minigame where you listen to the frequency of the radar pulses and figure out where the object is.
  • From there, it’s just a matter of deactivating the device.  Even though I know the correct sequence, every time I do this mission it always screws up once or twice, sending a monster my way.

dragATC (sabotage mission)

  • When he isn’t using his remote controlled spy plane to check on Cassie, Danny’s been trying to see into the airport where the Orochi have set up a perimeter.  Their EMPs or whatever keep taking the plane out, so he wants me to go in there and disable the tech-tech.
  • I like his mention of his history teacher: “Of course, he’s a zombie now.  But he’s still Mr. Rosen.  And still wearing those way-too-tight underpants.”
  • After doing a flyby of my own and confirming that, yes, the EMP generators will down a tiny plane, it’s time to covertly run in like an idiot, get zapped a thousand times, all in an attempt to shut them down.
  • This is impossible to do if you don’t steal an Orochi uniform off of one of the dead guys’ bodies.  Trust me, it’s not as if there are a shortage of Orochi corpses in this game.  That uniform has a longer lifespan of your average corporate employee.
  • Even with the uniform, going into the guarded airport section requires keeping as wide a berth as possible from the drones and guards.  Get too close and you get zapped, requiring you to start all over again.  Yup, this is exactly the sort of mechanic that drove me to frustration in later missions in the game.  This one isn’t simple, but it’s mostly a learning exercise.
  • Long story short, Danny gets his pictures.  So long, Danny.  We’ll be in touch.
  • So why doesn’t Danny just go to his clubhouse?  Or to the Academy?  Maybe he just really, really likes to skate.

gasEvolution of the Species (action mission)

  • Now that I’ve finished infiltrating the Orochi and helping Danny to spy on them, it’s time to head over to their temporary HQ and offer my services.  My position as a hero is very ambiguous in this game; I’m more like a mercenary for hire with a boss that’s cool with me doing whatever.
  • The two Orochi leaders, Ann and Harrison, are actually pretty neat to listen to.  Just go up to them and hang out for a while — they have several conversations back and forth.  Ann is a hoot, especially when she gushes over me being a “superhero.”  Also, catch their “confirm or deny” game.  I think that they’re a cute couple.
  • Harrison Blake is voiced by Star Trek Voyager’s Tim Russ (Tuvok), which makes his later “red shirts” comment all that much more hilarious.  Ann is voiced by Tara Strong, AKA Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony (among many other things).
  • The Orochi want me to help shore up their perimeter, which sounds pretty standard until you really think about it.  First of all, Harrison makes a big deal out of the company being there to observe and not intervene — in other words, they’re not there to help the civilians from being slaughtered.  Second, the Orochi are blocking the only bridge back to the mainland, which effectively cuts off an overland escape route.  Now, they may be doing that to contain the situation and because the fog would kill anyone going over the bridge, but to me it still seems heartless.
  • I go to my work of diassembling the draug, piece by piece.  It’s nothing special, although after a while the mission tells me to assemble a homemade bomb (gasoline), which made me wonder why I can’t just go to the Orochi and ask for a grenade or something.  Man, I would love grenades in this game.

redshirtsHulk Smash (action mission)

  • Ann is worried that the Condition 17s — the zombies — are mutating inexplicably in the location of the nearby Priest Island.  Since I’m a willing red shirt, to the island I go!  Once again, I’m grateful for the low tide.
  • So weird thing that I sometimes do is to stop and watch the NPC idle animations.  You’d be surprised what devs do with these.  I got a chuckle out of this one zombie who just kept kicking this tree half-heartedly.  Stupid tree.  Always getting in the way.
  • ANYWAY… Priest Island is full of three things: zombies, hulking zombies, and Filth pools.  Guess we know why there are mutations.
  • I have a somewhat enjoyable time running around killing zombies and plugging up holes with boulders.  That’s how professionals deal with dire world-ending threats: plug them with rocks.

What the Tide Brought In (side mission)

  • This side mission is a good one to run parallel to Hulk Smash, as it asks me to pick up and return five Orochi cannisters on Priest Island.
  • It’s easiest to just stick to the beach, since I can find all five relatively quickly this way.  Easy AP!

journeyThe Captain’s Playlist (side mission)

  • This is probably the first side mission that woke me up to the fact that side missions in TSW can be as involved as main missions and as challenging.  This one is like a mini-investigation quest — I find a note telling of a captain’s buried treasure, but the coordinates are certain lengths of 1980s pop music hits (Safety Dance and Don’t Stop Believin’).
  • I’m so willing to bet that this was some older designer’s attempt to get the younger generation to at least listen to some of these classic tunes.  In any case, it’s a neat real world-secret world crossover.
  • The treasure box is alllll the way on the other side of the map, and after finding it (it’s in shallow water), I was really let down when the quest didn’t even tell me what was inside.  Fiddlesticks!

Evaluating WildStar’s scientist path

sciProbably my biggest regret in WildStar is that I ended up comitting to the scientist path for my main character.  It’s far too late to reroll, so I’m stuck with it.  Sure, I could just ignore it, but I have a hard time doing that since the rewards are decent and it would drive the completionist part of me crazy.  But if I could go back in time, I’d try to convince myself that the settler was far more for me… or anything else, really.

So let’s write up a report card for the scientist to see what I like and dislike about this path!  At least that way I’m getting a post out of my bad choice.

Path aim

The big selling point for the scientist path is to be treated to more of the game’s lore and get a fuller sense of the world.  Since I was planning on this character being the first to go all the way through the game, that made sense to me that I’d want to really get to know more about it.

In reality, this “extra lore” angle has boiled down to three things: forcing me to get every datacube (which is annoying but fun to hear), the very occasional pop-up that elaborates on a species, and unlocking text files that I’ll never take the effort to open up and read.  So for its aim, I think it fails.  I don’t get much more of a sense of the world than I would have otherwise.

I would have liked to have been treated to cutscenes or more audio logs for completing scientist missions, or even been given special pointers as to how to manipulate the world and use scientific knowledge to my advantage.

World interaction

Occasionally but not frequently the scientist path will offer some additional interactions with the world that can be benificial.  These include opening otherwise-locked doors, triggering plants for heals, fixing up broken patrol bots, and making some things explode to hurt enemies.  I’d love to see a LOT more of that, to be honest.

Difficulty

The scientist is not the easiest path to pursue.  While I’ve not gone the explorer route, I’ve heard it said that the scientist is actually tougher to locate places in the world because it’s not spelled out for you with giant floating neon arrows.

I’ve had a few scientist missions that were challenging to complete, mostly because I couldn’t find the last clicky in a region.  But probably the toughest part is finding every darn datacube in a zone.  I’ve mentioned before how I have to pull up a website to help me do this after I finish a zone and do a lot of cross-referencing to find the handful of cubes that I missed.

Rewards

First of all, in a game without vanity pets, having a floating scanbot (that’s customizable!) is a decent substitute.  It goes really well with the image of an Engineer and the class’ bots.  I’m not a fan of how you have to resummon the scanbot and other bots after every mount ride, but still it’s nice to have.

I’ve been pleased with the rewards from the path, particularly the group summon skill that’s come in handy to get folks together for a project.  The port to the capital city is certainly nice to have if the standard port is still on cooldown.  And the outfit (especially the headpiece) is spiffy.

Identity

While I certainly identify with my class choice of Engineer, I can’t say that I see my character as a scientist in any way.  It’s another set of mission objectives to fulfill, but it’s mostly observation with no experiments or scientific breakthroughs.

It has potential to be an interesting path, and it’s my sincere hope that Carbine decides to devote an upcoming drop to giving all of the paths a huge revamp in order to fulfill this potential.

Battle Bards Episode 36: The Many MMOs of Tracy W. Bush

This week we welcome Composer Tracy W. Bush onto the show to talk about his vast experience in the MMO industry.  His body of work includes World of Warcraft, DCUO, Dungeon Runners, Tabula Rasa, Free Realms, and City of Heroes.  He’s also quite the talker, so if you want to get some insight into how the creative process works on a deadline, this will be the episode for you!  Also, you’ll hear Tracy recreate his Murloc voice — yup, this is the guy who created that iconic sound.

Unfortunately, this week Steff was AFK, so it was up to Syl and Syp to grill Tracy.  Don’t worry, Steff will be back for episode 37!

Episode 36 show notes

  • Interview with Tracy W. Bush
  • “Darnassus” from World of Warcraft
  • “Radio Free Zerg” from StarCraft
  • “Darnassus” from World of Warcraft
  • “Tanaris” from World of Warcraft
  • “Cimmora Main Theme” from City of Heroes
  • Tracy’s Murloc demo
  • “Townston Theme” from Dungeon Runners
  • “Rattletooth’s Lair” from Dungeon Runners
  • “Townston Theme” from Dungeon Runners
  • “Blue Turns to Grey” from Tabula Rasa
  • “AFS Outpost” from Tabula Rasa
  • “Checkers” from Free Realms
  • “Gotham City BGM” from DC Universe Online
  • “Cooking” from Free Realms
  • Mail from JadenK
  • Outro (“Radio Free Zerg” from StarCraft)

Listen to episode 36 now!

RIFT: Pile up on the poor Dwarf, why don’t you

ironEven though RIFT utilizes the older tab-targeting, global cooldown combat system, I’ve been enjoying it as though having a long conversation with an old friend.  Action combat is well and good, but sometimes you want to think during combat and not be simply slamming a whole ton of keys at once just to activate everything.

EV-REY-THIIIIING

And even though RIFT’s combat is a little slower pace, it can get really exhilerating.  One thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is seeing how my at-level mobs I can pull at once and take down.  The tactician’s flamethrower (and icethrower… and deaththrower…) is perfect for this, since it has a wide cone with a long distance that spits out a string of damage.

Of course, with the mass pulling game, sometimes I get overconfident or I misjudge the mobs’ strength and end up in a world of trouble.  I’ve had more than a few fights where it comes down to the wire — I have no “oh crap” emergency buttons left and it’s simply a matter of DPSing them down before they do the same to me.  And I’ve had several encounters that ends up with me taking a jog back to my corpse.

As of late I’ve been trying out a Bladedancer build with a little bit of Assassin (which gives me a health leech).  For a melee class, it’s kind of outstanding.  I have a huge amount of flexibility with a set of 24-second buffs to apply, single- and multiple-target attacks, and pretty decent survivability (dodge + some health regen).

Iron Pines Peak took longer than I had anticipated to wrap up, as there are several different storylines going on in that zone.  Since this zone was reworked to be a mid-level questing area a while back so that players could get an earlier introduction into the Storm Legion content, I was definitely interested to see how the changes sat.  It’s not bad, in retrospect, although I’m wondering if the level 30-40 corridor is a little too cluttered with zones.  I liked how the quests slowly built up to the mystery of the necklaces and didn’t try to resolve that within one or two completions.  At least I got to spend some quality time in a nice snowy zone, beating up bandits, wolves, and swirly whirly air elementals.

Now it’s on to Moonshade Highlands, one of my favorite old world locations due to its beauty (it’s like spring right before/after a heavy rainstorm) and to connect back up with Scotty the Dwarf.  We’ll see how many fae I can get to pile on me here before I break out my blades like a teed-off porcupine.