Five Good Things IV: Never Say Die

James Bond is like stinky cheese to me; a little goes a long way and keeps me from partaking again for a while.  Not that it’s all bad, mind you, but I just don’t need to gorge on it.  So Skyfall was okay, but it’s also reset my interest in the franchise for a few years at least.

But what is getting me excited these days?  Here are five things!  Good things!

1. Food: Turkey

Dang, but I love this delicious fowl.  Turkey deli slices just don’t do it, but I do eat a lot of turkey in my diet (turkey bacon rocks).  The absolute best is the Thanksgiving turkey, because then you get the chunks of turkey that go oh-so-well with mayo and cheese for day-after sandwiches.  Mmm.

2. Music: MMO soundtracks

Ever since starting my Jukebox Heroes column at Massively, I’ve been absolutely immersing myself in MMO music of all types.  I’m not just talking the one or two soundtracks everyone seems to know, but really obscure stuff that’s turning out to be great stuff.  I’m really looking forward to sharing some of these findings with you guys!

3. iPhone Game: Knights of Pen and Paper

This is such a cool and addicting little RPG that isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen.  It’s not just a standard RPG where you have a party that goes on quests, beats encounters, loots gold, and so on, but it’s presented as a group of contemporary roleplayers sitting at a table where a GM is describing the scene and setting up the quests.  While the grammar is sometimes horrible, the humor is great and the game’s quite enjoyable to play.

4. Season: Christmas

The past few years I’ve been a little blah about the Christmas season in general, but this year I’m extremely excited about it.  I think that’s due in part to my kids becoming an age where they can start to understand what’s going on and get excited about it themselves.  I’m planning to go all-out with decorating, for starters, and am planning a few new traditions for the family to enjoy this year.  Also, I’m totally okay with listening to the Christmas music station while I’m driving.

5. TV: Andy Richter Controls the Universe

I’m rediscovering this almost-forgotten cult classic sitcom from the early 2000s.  It’s not the funniest thing I’ve ever watched, but the tale of five co-workers and friends who get into some pretty weird situations is definitely watchable.  There are so many good lines in it, and I can see how this was a spiritual predecessor to some of my other favorites, such as Arrested Development and Better Off Ted.

Don’t worry about me; I’ll be over here doing something awesome

Lost Shores remained lost for me in Guild Wars 2 last weekend.  I never set foot in any of the event areas for two good reasons: (1) it sounded incredibly dull with no compelling rewards and (2) everyone but everyone was screaming about what a glitched lagfest it was.  My gaming time is precious these days, so I’m not going to roll the dice on that.

Instead, I gave an hour or two to Blazeridge Mountains, because I knew that at least there I could get something significant done.  I had no idea how significant, however.

It turned out that Shatterer was available for group combat, and what the heck, I haven’t done many (any) of the world bosses to date.  So I chugged it up there to find a chaotic mess of dragonic proportions.

“HI!”

I immediately contracted the I-Don’t-Know-What-I’m-Doing-But-I’ll-Pretend-I-Do-So-I-Don’t-Look-Dumb-In-Front-Of-All-Of-These-Other-Obviously-Experienced-Dragon-Fighters disease.  I get that a lot, now that I think about it.  Was I supposed to run up and start attacking this LEGO dragon thing?  Okay.  Run run, drop a turret, start to hit an attack key and… dead.  Wait.  Got rezzed, thanks Mr. Big Sword Guy!  Now he’s dead.  I should probably return the favor.  Rez rez, he’s up.  And now we’re both dead.  This is problematic.

Eventually I retreated to a camp where I saw mortars being set up, and having a keen interest in preserving my own skin, I manned one and started lobbing hot balls of death at him.  Actually, they were lukewarm balls of healing at first until I realized you could switch out the load.  I love how in MMOs, healing can be such a violent activity involving explosions, shooting people with large guns, and draining one’s life to save another.  Hospitals would be so much cooler if doctors lobbed mortar rounds full of bactine into  wards and shot patients point-blank with semi-automatics full of penicillin.

Long story short, we actually downed him.  I was not expecting that, since I had no idea if I was even helping and most everyone I saw fighting was fighting from a prone, bleeding position.  But he got dead in a spectacular way and I ran up all happy-like to get my chest.  I ended up with two yellows (including a new rifle), some greens, and other bits of loot.  That plus an achievement was the icing on the cake for the session.

Nostalgia Lane: Kohan

I think I’ve talked before about how some strategy games provide the tools and backdrop so that my mind can come up with a story to infuse it with purpose.  Games like Civilization, Master of Orion, and even the recent FTL are all great at doing this.  But perhaps nothing was quite as effective as a rather unique RTS called Kohan.

Kohan came out in 2001, and as far as I’m aware, never really made it big.  It did decently enough to warrant an expansion and a 2004 sequel, but I’ve never, ever heard gamers talking about it.  That’s a shame, a real shame, because Kohan provided me with a different kind of game experience that I’ve been unable to get before or since.

So at its core, Kohan puts you in charge of a faction that usually starts out with one or two cities, and then tasks you with wiping the map with the other factions.  Each city can be upgraded — and should, since these upgrades help support your standing armies.  The armies are the true feature of the game.  Each are six-person squads that you can customize (as in, which classes make up the squad — 2 tanks, 2 mages, 2 archers, that sort of thing).  You can only field a certain number of squads based on the cities you own and the upgrades you’ve established.

And here’s the other interesting thing: If your squad is in territory controlled by one of your cities, it will regenerate health.  If it’s behind enemy lines, then you get no regeneration.  It simply demonstrates the concept of a supply train, and makes attacks on enemy cities nail-biting experiences.  Defenders always get the advantage, so you have to weaken them first, then come in hard and fast before you’re ground into paste.  You also had the options to entrench, to level up squads to veteran status, and so on.

Because of the squad customization, I grew attached to the different armies and would come up with little stories for them.  They reminded me of fantasy novels with large-action battles taking place and strategic movements across maps.

Probably the closes analogue to Kohan would be the much larger Total War series.  I liked Kohan’s perspective better, however; it was streamlined enough so that battles weren’t enormous surging messes, but detailed enough so that it was easy to pretend that each squad was much larger than six mere soldiers.  Kind of a thinking-man’s RTS.

Free music alert!

Chalk this up to the “probably has been there forever but I just found out about it today” column, but RuneScape’s made a huge amount of its soundtrack available for free.  Right here. There are even remixes and shanties.  SHANTIES, people!  The second best word in the world that ends in “anties”!  I wish every MMO studio would do this for their music.

Update: And here’s some for Ryzom that’s also free!

And yes, I’m adding that to the MMO Music page on this here site.  As always, if you know of any MMO scores that are either (a) for sale through a digital download somewhere or (b) being given out for free — legally — by the studio, let me know!

The Most Insane Week Ever Continues

Seriously, I cannot be the only player who finds it so bizarre that on a random week in November we’ve gotten absolutely slammed with new MMO releases, patches, expansions, and events.  It’s making me yearn for the quiet to come in December, just so that I’ll have time to stop spazzing out over consuming all this content and instead downshift to merely cruise through it all.

Last night in RIFT I decided that I wasn’t that hot on my Rogue after all.  I was really excited to play the new Tactician soul, but it ended up feeling too similar to my flamethrower Engineer in GW2 that I lost interest fast.  With few other Rogue builds tempting me and being only a dozen or so quests into the new areas, I went back to my Cleric for the expansion.

This turned out to be a good decision, methinks.  The Inquisitor soul, my favorite, got a lot more lethal with recent changes, and so I worked up a new build there.  Likewise with the Druid, whose pet roster has expanded to include a melee tank and ranged DPS on top of melee DPS and healer.  Druid is my go-to build when I just want to thwap someone with a big hammer.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the new soul, the Defiler.  I haven’t read up on this one at all, so it was a bit of a learning curve to get tons of these new skills and attempt to figure out a rotation.  As best as I can tell, the Defiler is a caster/healer hybrid with some interesting mechanics, such as delayed heals and pain transferrence from allies.  Time will tell on this one.

I haven’t had time to get my chainsaw yet in TSW, although that’s a priority for the weekend, and I’m probably going to give Lost Shores in GW2 a pass.  It just doesn’t look that appealing at all.  I’d rather continue my march toward level 80 and 100% map completion.

SWTOR finally flipped the switch to F2P, and as one might expect, it was bananas in general chat.  The worlds looked incredibly full, which is both a good sign and to be expected.  I’m a day or two away from downgrading from subscription to pure F2P, so I’m sitting on my cartel coins (all 2550 of them) until that happens.  I’ve mapped out what unlocks I’m going to get, and I’ve purchased as much inventory space with credits as I can so that that space will be grandfathered in.

I haven’t heard much from people playing the new EverQuest 2 expansion.  Have you?  Is it good?

I’m also a little saddened to hear the news about Glitch’s closure.  Glitch never clicked with me, but I appreciate it’s quite unique art style, community crafting focus, and robust housing.  I’m surprised that it couldn’t make it financially; I would’ve thought that the overhead for a browser title like that would be a lot less than your standard MMO.  I mean, we live in a world where Evony prospers but Glitch is sent to an early grave?  How badly did the studio bungle the financial model here, or was it really just a lack of players?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a quieter holiday week next week.  LOTRO is begging for more of my attention, and I really don’t want to fall too behind in Storm Legion either.

Crucia O’Reilly

I’m in the first zone of Dusken in RIFT’s expansion, and I keep hearing this booming voice coming from… somewhere.  I think it’s supposed to be Crucia, the main villainess, who is taunting us, but I can never understand what she’s saying.  What’s even stranger is that it sounds like she’s using a PA system, kind of like Radar on M*A*S*H.  So now I have the mental image of this lonely dragon/semi-nude lady sitting in an empty office shouting into a mike while drinking a fifth of Scotch.

Happy Storm Legion launch day (plus one)!

“LFG to find my clothes!”

You know that movie and TV convention where a character has something they have been looking forward to — a sandwich, a crossword puzzle, a nap, whatever — but every time they sit down to enjoy it, a distraction comes along and keeps them from it?  That was yesterday for me and RIFT.  Oh, how maddening it was to see the new expansion fully patched and loaded, only to be called away for grocery shopping… and a fussy baby… and a sick kid… and my own pesky need for sleep.

As a result, I’ve only had a half-hour or so to check it out, although my guildies have been raving about it.  I rolled up the new Tactician soul, which is a kissing cousin to my Guild Wars 2 Engineer so much that I could close my eyes and pretend I was in either game.  I also could pretend I was flying over Uganda, but that’s the power of imagination for you.

My second stop was acquiring my first Dimension and fiddling with the tools.  This is something I have to devote a lot more time to evaluating, but I can say pretty confidently that this is one of the most intuitive and flexible player housing systems I’ve ever seen.  It’s just a joy to work with, and the possibilities are endless.  I’m going to try hard not to go broke right off the bat (I’m ashamed to say I don’t even have enough money for my level 50 mount yet), so I’m holding off from buying tons of housing materials for now.  Instead, I headed off to one of the new continents, Dusken, to get that XP, moneys, loots, and  whatever else is coming my way.

It’s definitely tricky to jump into a completely new soul at level 50 and try to make sense of all of the skills and talents, but I think I’m settling on a good rotation.  So far, my Tactician/Bard/Blade Dancer is pretty tough and dishes out a lot of damage in return.  The flamethrower is extremely welcome in crowded battles, and so far there have been several of those.

I’m also pleased to see that the art style for armor has jumped up a few notches.  RIFT’s never had the best style in this department, but so far Storm Legion is looking to change my mind.  It’s definitely unique, but also a lot sleeker and more visually appealing.

So we’ll see how it goes from here!  With SWTOR’s F2P transition tomorrow and GW2’s Lost Shores on Friday, I really want to get in some good time with RIFT later today.  That’s probably an invitation for even more distractions, like 13 dwarves barging in my house and demanding that I feed them dinner and then go  on an adventure.