Star Trek Online: On my kitty carrier

caitian-atrox-carrierWhile I had anticipated spending a lot of time gaming over the break, the truth is that I really didn’t get that much in.  I had some time, to be sure, but taking my nephews and niece Geocaching, watching It’s A Wonderful Life, and playing with my new titanium spork took precedence.

The MMO that got the most time, actually, was Star Trek Online.  My online Christmas present to myself was the purchase of an endgame Atrox carrier, aka the kitty carrier (so named because a cat-race designed it.  I’ll let that slide, as I’m not a cat person but really wanted a carrier.).  Carriers aren’t as easy to come by in the game as other types of ships, either requiring real money purchase or some lengthy rare currency grind.  It just looked pretty darn cool, and I’m quite satisfied with the purchase.  Not only does the ship look insanely sleek (and atypical for most Federation starships), but it can spit out a dozen fighters and fire off six turret guns like a wolverine of the stars.

I also went through the whole Breen featured episode series again, this time to get the Breen bridge officer that Cryptic brought back for a limited time.  Right now I have 8 rare BOs that jockey for my love and affection, although the Breen dude might just top them all.

As much fun as I’m having in STO, I don’t really know what I’ll do when I finish out the Cardassian, Borg, and Undine story arcs.  There’s always task forces and foundry missions, but I’m not feeling attracted to them.  Chances are that I’ll be putting my ship in mothballs until the next featured episodes come out, whenever that is.

That might be for the best, since I’ll want to free up that fifth MMO slot for some of the gaming goodness coming out next year.  One day at a time, O captain… one day at a time.

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Five highlights of 2012 (that aren’t gaming)

2012_oxcgnDespite the focus of this blog, I hope I never give the impression that gaming is all I do, think, or write about.  I also have a weird Tic-Tac obsession.  Here are five personal highlights of the past year that happened outside of games:

1. Had a third child

Having three children who are still in diapers (the eldest is potty training hard, but isn’t quite willing to move on yet) makes a lot of people ask us with skeptical wonder how we manage.  The answer I give is, we just do.  I think that’s what all parents do, just manage from one day to the next.  I make time for my kids, always step away from what I’m doing if they need a hug or want to show me something, and try to give them as much love as possible.

Having a third child this year added a lot to our plates, for sure.  My wife and I are now officially outnumbered.  But we’re blessed that our newest boy is incredibly easy going, kind of cute, and has a brother and sister who love rather than resent him.  I don’t regret it in the least.

2. Got into Geocaching

Geocaching was a hobby that came out of the blue for me when a guy at church offered to set up a geocache hunt for my youth group.  I think I ended up loving it more than the teens did, and spent a few months there doing a lot of mini-adventures across town.  While those slowed down when my wife’s pregnancy advanced and things got crazy at home, it’s still of interest to me and I plan to get back to it when the weather gets better again.

3. Did a lot of podcasting

I kind of feel like I’m reliving my college radio days a bit by doing podcasting, which is definitely cool.  I don’t think I have the best radio voice or am always the most spontaneous personality, but I’ve really enjoyed doing both Massively Speaking and Too Long; Didn’t Listen with Bree and Dodge, and look forward to more of the same in 2013.  Chatting with someone about games has a refreshingly different feel to it than just writing about games (and you don’t have to worry about formatting!).

4. Lost weight

Thanks to folks like Moxie, Dodge, and Beej, I finally found a diet that worked for me.  I’ve never wanted to be one of those diet evangelists who won’t stop talking about food and weigh-ins and stuff, so I haven’t mentioned this much this year.  But the cool news is that the diet I started in July has resulted in 40 pounds of lost weight.  For me, that’s huge.  I still have a good 40 or so pounds to go, but right now I weigh less than I did in college, feel great, and have had a lot of people comment on the change.  I really hope that the trend continues.

Quick plug for Professor Beej’s new blog, Geek Fitness.  He’s got a better weight loss story than I do, for sure.  I know I’ll be reading it!

5. Started the Newbie Blogger Initiative

Man, it seems like so long ago that we did the NBI, huh?  It was an interesting idea to encourage new or lapsed bloggers by offering support from current bloggers, and the MMO blog community really came out to shine.  I might have pulled the trigger on it, but so many other people did all the work of reaching out, offering advice, and helping new bloggers get on their feet.

The best part is that plenty of these blogs still exist and are churning out great content!

All in all, it was a terrific year!

The Secret World: Wherefore art thou, Tyler Freeborn?

It’s a common refrain in the voice chat on The Secret World nights for several of us to just spontaneously gush with praise for the game — and wonder, with frustration, why more people aren’t playing it.  I mean, I can understand why it’s not for everyone, it’s just the general sentiment that this is something special, something that hasn’t gotten the least bit old since it launched.

Our regular group formed up on a special night to tackle the new Issue #5 DLC, The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn.  The four-quest chain was given out to everyone who had the game in December, so buying it wasn’t an issue.  I had heard it was pretty special, and I’ve been quite curious about Funcom’s statement that it would be focusing on creating story arcs with these new missions.  Plus, I’ve been just so darn curious about that mist and fog that’s everywhere in Kingsmouth, along with my oft-repeated question of why the survivors don’t just, y’know, leave.

Now I know.  Now I don’t blame them for staying.

The quest chain concerns a new character, the titular Tyler Freeborn, a guy who’s been investigating the weird goings-on around Solomon Island from before the mist.  He’s vanished, but has left behind quite a few video recordings that set us off on a merry chase around the Blue Mountain region before finally giving us the opportunity to enter the mist ourselves.

I’m not huge into spoilers, so as much as I’d love to talk about the final awesome quest, I’ll just be a bit broad about it.  Before this point, we as a group were having a lot of fun working on the quests together, which involved dodging helicopter attacks on a road (most of us died) and a stealth mission through the Orochi camp.  Oh, the Orochi: the Red Shirts of The Secret World.  You just don’t feel bad for whatever happens to them.

But the final quest did something quite devious: It split us up.  We entered the fog together (you have to be wearing either respirator masks or full-on CDC hazmat suits), but the last part was a solo instance.  This was probably to keep the scare factor high — it’s a lot less terrifying when you see your friends running around you — but it proved detrimental to one of our teammates who was only at QL3-level gear and couldn’t finish some of the fights.

Anyway, this instance is one of the most unnerving bits of gameplay I’ve yet to come across.  There were lots of yelps and muffled swears as we navigated it, yelling at each other clues and directions and generally keeping each other company.  It helped.

It took us about two hours, give or take, to do the whole chain — and it was definitely worth it.  Great story, great set pieces, and some much-needed pieces of the overall puzzle.  Plus, I got a whole slew of screenshots:

y1 y2 y3 y4 y5

Too Long; Didn’t Listen episode 48 is up!

tldlsquareIt’s the end of the year as we know it… and we feel fine, baby!  Dodge and Syp wrap up the year in style, which is to say that we blather about all sorts of nonsensical topics and then try to rush a coherent ending.  Thanks for listening in 2012, folks!

Two topics in 30 minutes or your next podcast is free. You know you would listen to all this if it just wasn’t so… long!

Listen to episode 48 here!

Quote of the Day

“Now for this to work out though the whole town clothes and transmutations systems just needs to get completely scrapped, the code burnt, and the ashes scattered on the worlds great currents.”

~ Healing the Masses

A great Guild Wars 2 “wish list” post, talking about the desire to give us a traditional wardrobe cosmetic system like every other MMO.  Totally agree; town clothes and transmutation stones are pointlessly annoying.

What I played in 2012

Rather than stretch on the Flushies past my current level of interest, I thought I’d start wrapping up the year by saying a few words about each game I played in 2012.

  • Lord of the Rings Online — This remains my long-running MMO home, and as such I’ve had plenty of intense periods of play and lax periods of disinterest with it.  The expansion really is a great addition to the game, and I’m quite pleased that Turbine instituted open tapping and remote looting across the entire game.  I’ve just started a new Dwarf Champion, so I’m looking at the possibility of leveling up all over again.
  • RIFT — I came back to RIFT in May and I don’t regret it.  I leveled up a Cleric from 1 to 51, flirted with my Rogue, and started to make some headway in the expansion.  The player housing system really impressed me, and it was good to reconnect with my old guild.
  • The Secret World — The pleasant surprise of the year that’s given me quite a few great hours of storytelling and adventure with my shotgun-wielding 80s girl.  I’ve come to love our regular group nights and hope that Funcom can keep the magic alive for years to come.  The business model switch was a great move, although I am worried that it won’t bring as much income in for the studio.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic — I enjoyed wrapping up my Imperial Agent’s storyline early in the year, but couldn’t really get attached to a second character and soon fell away from the game.  I did return for free-to-play, tried a Smuggler for a while, but it didn’t quite stick.  I may be coming back again, I don’t know.
  • Star Trek Online — I played this off and on over the year, but it’s definitely been of interest lately.  I finally hit the maximum level and have a cool ship to go with it.
  • Guild Wars 2 — Really love this game and haven’t been disappointed in it yet.  While I hit level 80 with my Engineer a while back, I’m holding off on alts until I finish my first 100% map completion.
  • Runes of Magic — I went through a really brief flirtation with this game during the early summer lull, but wasn’t impressed enough to stick with it.
  • Anarchy Online — Spent a few days here and there in the newbie zone, but didn’t have enough time or vested interest to get into the game as much as I’d like.
  • Asheron’s Call 2 — Really cool to at least see this game for a couple nights, but I wasn’t going to stay subscribed just for that.
  • Champions Online — Returned for a couple days after the fall of City of Heroes.  I actually wouldn’t mind playing this if I had more time and a freeform character wasn’t $50, but as it is, I’ll have to leave it be.
  • DC Universe Online — I gave this another try on the recommendation of several friends who rave about it, but just couldn’t get past the horrible character creation process and wonky action control scheme.
  • Vanguard — Another “it just went F2P so I should play it” temptation that didn’t pan out.  That’s a pity; I think I’d probably end up liking this game a lot if I dedicated myself to it.
  • Dark Age of Camelot — Played this for six weeks for a Massively series.  Was definitely an interesting peek into the past that I never saw, but wasn’t my cup of tea in the end.

That’s it for the big ones, although I did try a few betas (City of Steam, Marvel Heroes) and downloaded a couple titles that got erased almost immediately.  Tomorrow I’ll be looking back at the other major events of the year, and then we’ll just move forward once more!

2012 Flushies: Best New MMO

splitI’m going to wind up this year’s Flushies tomorrow and then get back to the normal swing of things, so you’ll have to pardon me if all of this seems rather… skimpy.  It kind of is.  I’m sorry!  I’m only a human being with weaknesses just like everyone else EXCEPT FOR YOU.  Stop looking at me with those accusing, patronizing eyes!  I do not dance for you like a clockwork monkey; I am a man!

Ahem.

Best new MMO of the year.

Winner: [Tie] The Secret World and Guild Wars 2

OK, I know this is (a) no big shocker and (b) waffling to make it a tie, but I can’t help either.

While there’s a contingent that really seems to dislike GW2 out there, it’s such a relaxing, engaging, and beautiful game that I knew from the first second I stepped into that world that it would be a contender.  The art and sound has set the standard for the industry, and the gameplay ain’t half bad.  Even if dynamic events aren’t as completely revolutionary as we might have hoped, they’re pretty cool.  Plus, there are a ton of small innovations abounding that I wish would make it to the rest of the industry.

The Secret World is a rougher game, especially with its difficulty level and sometimes wonky combat.  However, whatever rough spots exist are forgiven in light of the title’s stellar storytelling, voice acting, and general setting.  It’s a type of MMO that we just don’t see anywhere else, and I can’t help but love it.

So I can’t really choose between the two, and since it’s my blog I don’t have to.

Runners-up:

  • Pirate101 — I do wish I had some time to play this, since it looks like another solid hit for KingsIsle.
  • PlanetSide 2 — Not my cup of MMO tea, but I’m not going to ignore its popularity and general good word of mouth I’ve heard from my friends who play it.