/AFK – Huge Tracts of Land Edition

“Don’t like this MMORPG? What’s wrong with her? She’s beautiful, she’s rich, she’s got huge… tracts of land.”

  1. On Beyond Zebra thinks Evony’s gone classy.  Really classy.
  2. Whereas the Ancient Gaming Noob has just gone bonkers.
  3. KIASA offers up one of the funniest articles of all time — on fishing
  4. Player Versus Developer takes a hard look at LOTRO’s direction
  5. MMORPG.com puts a complete MMO newbie behind the wheels of WoW and writes down the results
  6. ITG! has a list of demands… 10 demands, to be precise
  7. The Banstick lived to tell about the end of Star Trek… beta.
  8. Some Italian website puts Cryptic on the horns concerning Klingon content in STO
  9. Corpse Run introduces us to Allods Psionicist
  10. TTH has ten improvements they think should rule the next MMO generation
  11. Scott Jennings lines up the most notorious MMO failures of all time for our pity
  12. Backhand of Justice says that print is dead.  And should stay that way.
  13. The STO beta ends, and Banstick generally likes it, while Ark decidedly does not
  14. Spinks has an excellent STO beta recap
  15. Ysharros looks at the real reason why people are jerks in game, and how it can be stopped.

Star Trek Online: Day One

Just a few notes from the first day of the head start, as experienced by yours truly:

  • Good: They launched the game at least 15 minutes ahead of schedule
  • Bad: …Which didn’t matter, since I couldn’t log on until 45 minutes later due to the server crush
  • Good: Performance and framerate is doing well, a LOT better than a few weeks ago in closed beta.  I had no problems with the actual gameplay, and no crashes whatsoever.
  • Bad: Day one stupid little problems abounded, like the Liberated Borg for the lifetimers not being available, or my little shuttle pet being unavailable because I used it in beta (guess that’ll be my first support ticket).
  • Bad: General chat.  It just hurt the eyes, and the inelegant chat names (Syp@Syp[Zone-21]: Hi guys!) didn’t help whatsoever.
  • Good: I made it to Lieutenant grade 4 in a couple hours, so leveling felt decent.  I really want Lt. Cmdr, as everyone else does, because then you can choose your first ship type past the default one.
  • Good: I guess I didn’t figure this out in beta (dur), but you can choose different ship models for the same ship type.  So even though there’s only around (I think) 13 Federation ship types, there’s about three times that in the looks department.
  • Bad: Cryptic’s obviously holding back some of the customization options, like races and uniforms for special offers or for the C-store, not to mention the paltry 2 character slots (which goes up to 3 when you hit level 6).  It just makes you feel as though you’re being set up for the nickel-and-dime microtransactions that are to come.  Really, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have every Starfleet uniform type available right away to make this the ultimate Trekker’s dream.
  • Bad: Currency?  Dude, I read an entire article on STO’s wacky currency types, and I was still lost in the game.
  • Good: Space combat felt great, and what’s even better, ground combat grew on me a little bit.
  • Bad: Sector Space.  Really, this is a gigantic “MISS” in the features department, and I hate going to the sector map to move between systems.  As Werit said, it looks like outerspace has been populated by waterslides.  More on this later.
  • Good: Nice progression between the stages of missions, and I thought they showed a good bit of variety in with the tasks.
  • Good: My engineer can throw down a circle of mines, and this makes me very very happy.
  • Good: Being able to hail Starfleet for mission completion and new missions, without having to return to spacedock each and every time.
  • Bad: The game automatically throws you into open groups for certain missions, and I couldn’t disable that option fast enough.
  • Bad: Looting in space is a CHORE.  If a ship you destroy drops loot, guess what?  You’ve probably overshot it by a couple lightyears already, and now need to turn slooooowly around and head on back.  Loot in this game, I feel, should be automatically dumped into your inventory without the whole “picking up” part.  It’s really annoying.
  • Bad: I bought this through Steam, and I guess that Steam up and decided it wanted to redownload the entire client in a different directory this evening.  So there goes any play time!
  • Good: The music, sounds, ship designs and fun factor is spot on.

Launch Day Traditions

  • Log onto the client to make sure I have the latest version downloaded and that there’s no last-minute 500GB patches that need to be applied before playing.
  • Clear my schedule for the day, knowing full well that the odds are it won’t launch on time and I might get an hour to play if that.
  • Spend the final hours before the servers open scouting around the web and blogs looking for others who are eagerly waiting and chatting about it.
  • For amusement purposes only, read the official forums and note how many people have pretended to be sick and/or lied to a spouse or parent to stay home.
  • Agonize over what class I want to play first.
  • Do a lot of chores around the house while I wait.
  • Log in.
  • Get disconnected.
  • Server’s down.
  • Go outside, shirtless, and wave a fist at the sky while yelling “CURSE YOU, [Name of Developer]!” until the neighbors call the cops to do a drive by.
  • Log back in.
  • Roll a character.
  • Hit “play” and sigh happily.

WoW: Wearing My Level Cap

So that’s it.  Little Echoes, who started her life as a newly-minted Tauren Druid in late November, has just graduated to a full-fledged level 80 powerhouse less than two months later.  Despite playing WoW off and on since launch, this is my first level 80 (I had five level 70’s when Wrath hit).  The 1-80 experience, assisted greatly by the Tour Guide addon and the new Dungeon Finder system, wasn’t blindingly quick, but it did progress rapidly and smoothly.  Considering I took a few serious chunks of time off and wasn’t playing every night, two months sounds like a good amount of time for a casual ascent to the level cap.

And of course, it hit me, as it always does the few times I’ve gotten a character to a level cap in any MMORPG.  The Wall.  The XP bar disappears, and the push to do more to level disappears.  For 80 levels, that’s been the driving force: more XP for the next ding.  And now that’s gone.

It’s a bewildering sensation that plagues all level-based games, because it’s akin to throwing your car from fifth gear to first at 90 mph (that’s 120 kilohectres for our metric friends).  Some folks consider the leveling game the prologue to the “real thing”, mostly because they spend a finite time leveling, but a potentially infinite era at the cap.  It’s when you can raid and do Manly, Serious Stuff like battlegrounds and stressing out over incremental gear upgrades.

Usually what I do when I hit the cap is to take a few days off, to get some perspective and make sure that I wasn’t pushing so hard to get there that it’s going to be depressing and anti-climactic to experience.  Then I reassess my goals: what do I want to achieve with this character in the short term and long term?  Do I want to start a new alt?   Raise more money?

The one thing that drives me to level cap more than anything else is guild gating — that unseen feature where you can’t do stuff with your buddies and the guild because they’re at max level and able to handle content that you’re too young for as of yet.  Now, I can.  Maybe I’ll never be fully Tier 50 gear or whatever ridiculous number they have these days, but I’ll be able to run small groups and even casual raids, and that’s just fine with me.

Things still left to do on my checklist for Echoes:

  • Finish getting enough gold to afford epic flight training (and my epic flight form)
  • Get 80 badges to purchase two 10% +XP heirloom items for my goblin hunter in the next expansion
  • Finish going through the zones in Northrend — I still have four zones worth of quests, loot and gold to go
  • Gear up a bit more — nothing excessive, but it’s nice to be able to do guild stuff when I’m in the mood for light raiding and heroic 5-mans
  • Getting my perky pug achievement/pet, and in so doing, get the 50 pet achievement and another pet (skunk)

Star Trek on Demand

I guess if Cryptic’s Star Trek dev team has a theme, it’s “we’ll make what players demand”.  I’ve been hearing this repeated, mostly as a way to wave off current criticism (“You don’t like what’s not there?  Then just ask for it, and our magic devs will whip it up!”), so we’ll see how it goes.

However, shortly after posting their State of the Game, I was surprised to see them post another article entitled “What’s Next”, where they go into more detail about upcoming content.  It’s notable in what they emphasize:

  • More Borg content.  Like, craploads of Borg.
  • Stressing that they’re adding more Klingon content, including PvE
  • “You asked for it, we made it”
  • High level content

A quick analysis of this tells me a few things about their thought process here.  The Borg thing is simple: they’re the go-to bad guys of the Star Trek universe, and even though they’ve been overused to the point of wearing out their scary welcome in all formats since 1990, players still want to encounter them and kill them in various fun ways.  I just hope they work this out of their system and move on to other enemies as well at some point.

Klingon content and high level content are signs that they’re shoring up two perceived weak points.  I guess there’s really been a strong call for more Klingon content among the playerbase, and that’s great they’re responding to it.  As for high level stuff, I think they don’t want to make the mistake of Champions and have a meandering, drifting end game without a whole heap of stuff to encounter.

What would I like to see them work on for upcoming patches?  I need to get in the game and really run it through its paces to tell for sure, but here are a few thoughts that quickly pop to mind:

  • A better, more defined crafting system.  Crafting has been mentioned quite often in STO previews, and never in a good way.  It’s important to the economy and to the immersion and to different types of players, and they need to work on it.
  • More inner-ship stuff.  Let us customize the ship’s interior, talk with our bridge officers and even have content that takes place in our ship.
  • More ship types.  I don’t think they can ever go wrong by adding more ship types to this game.  It adds variety, and also opportunity: they could make rare ships that require effort beyond just a simply energy purchase.  Players could even be allowed to craft ships (maybe small ones, like Runabouts).

/facepalm

I think I’ll just let you read all this over at Massively.

What did I *just say*, Cryptic?  Don’t make your upcoming zone expansion paid.  It’s not worth the extra bucks from paid subscribers vs. the PR hit and any loss of current/returning subscribers.  Plus, one zone is not an expansion, unless it’s the biggest freaking zone you’ve ever made.

Question: is there some secret competition out there between MMORPG studios to see who can shoot themselves in the foot the worst and most frequently?  And if so, who takes home the awards at the end of the year?