Thought I’d start the new year out with a few thoughts on what Cryptic’s been up to lately. I’ve been a little harsh on this studio, but it’s more of a tough love than snarky hate. I was disappointed with the rollout of Champions and subsequent issues, although I maintain that the core game is pretty dang fun, and the character creator is one to beat. And Star Trek Online has my inner robot flailing his arms and shouting “Danger Syp Robertson! Danger!”, even though quite a bit of it looks intriguing.
So what have they been up to?
Champions Releases An “Unlimited Demo”
MMO demos and trials are met with equal measures of applause and disdain in the community. Disdain because they crack open the door for gold sellers (unless measures are put into place), and because — fair or not — trials are often seen as a sign that a title is struggling hard for players. Applause because people have a tighter grip on their pocketbooks (do they still have pocketbooks in 2010?) and want to see the goods for themselves before shelling out hard-earned cash.
I’ll be positive on this, and say that Champions’ new unlimited demo is a smart move. Actually, I wish they had this from Day One, as I said before that letting people tinker around with the character creator would be a shrewd marketing strategy. Let people see the possibilities, get attached to their character, and reel them into the subscriber model.
This demo/trial isn’t half bad, as long as you’ve never played the game before. You can make any superhero you want and play the tutorial zone indefinitely (up to level 15, although I have to imagine that would take forever with the top mobs being around level 5 or 6 in that area).
Cryptic’s facing the same battle that all MMOs do after a few months post-release: to reel in new subs while trying to convince former players to come back and see how the game’s improved. Good luck to them!
Star Trek Online Cracks Open The NDA — To Press
No, Bio Break still isn’t “press”, but we are “shrill” according to some sources. Still, with open beta just days away at this point, it’s no biggie, and many sites have been taking a hard look at STO and providing much-needed honest 3rd party feedback on the game.
The best preview I’ve read so far comes from MMORPG.com, which has been pumping out stellar content as of late. Dana Massey did a big three-part article — part one, part two and part three — covering many aspects of the game, from the UI to space combat to ground combat to ship customization. The ultimate prognosis is that the game is solid, good fun, but it needs more time in the beta cooking pot, and it’s just not going to get it before the set-in-stone deadline of early February.
Here’s a few comments in these articles that caught my eye:
- “Some of it is a lot of fun, while other parts need a lot of polish in very little time, and still other aspects leave me scratching my head.”
- “The away missions are the least polished content, but the basic concept was good.”
- “There is no need to pile up and take 50 at a time so you don’t have to run back to town. The communication system cuts that need out.”
- “One totally unexpected feature that comes up often in away missions is the ability to pause the instance. Yep, you can pause in an MMO.”
- “Space combat is a welcome contrast to the ground content, and far more polished.”
- “I’ll admit flat out to being entirely lost at times. There is just a list of skills with descriptions and sometimes it’s very hard to tell what specifically they do.”
- “Generally, the ships still look somewhat alike at a glance, in about as much as say all SUVs or mini-vans look the same.”
- “The biggest problem is responsiveness. Everyone’s played a game like this. One where you hit a button once and feel like it needs to be mashed three more times to do anything. STO is one of those.”
- “Once in the space scenarios, though, I had a blast. There are a range of games and lots of balance and bugs to work out, but PvP in space is refreshing.”
- “The core of this game is really good. Conceptually, I have few problems with it.”