Unplugging

url1As I write this, my wife and I are less than two days from going on our first week-long vacation since before any of our children were born.  It’s been a while.  My parents have graciously agreed to watch our kids for the week so that we can go on a cruise.  Yes, we are excited.  We are also stressed, because it is a whole different ballgame to up and leave for a week when you’ve got several jobs and three kids to plan for.

Apart from being with my wife and hopefully not getting stranded on a desert island, this vacation is about unplugging.  Unplugging from work, unplugging from the normal routine, and unplugging from the internet.  While the ship does have wifi, it’s stupidly expensive — and besides, sometimes it’s just good to go a week without.  Emails will wait.  Blog posts will wait.  MMOs will wait.

I definitely feel like I need a week where I’m not writing, working, and taking care of kids every waking moment.  It’s going to be incredibly strange not writing the news or knowing what’s going on in the MMO industry for a week.  Knowing how it usually goes when I leave, something will implode and a major event will happen and I’ll come back to a chorus of “WHY ARE YOU NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS?!?”

Sorry about that in advance.  Sometimes it’s horrible to have the world revolve around you.

The most technology I’m bringing with me is my iPad mini, which I’ve stocked with a season of a sitcom that my wife and I are watching, four new books on Kindle, and a few games.  I don’t anticipate needing all of that, it’s just nice to have if there’s some waiting around or late-night downtime.

Anyway, apart from a pre-scheduled post here on Bio Break, you won’t see me again until the 6th.  Be… excellent to each other… and… party on, dudes!

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Happy Neverwinter soft launch day! (and yes, I’m playing)

nwnscreenSo here and there I’ve had people ask and/or act surprised about me playing Neverwinter.  Yes, I’m planning on getting into this new D&D title and no, I don’t have huge reservations about doing so.  I’m also covering it for Massively.

I have a particular fondness for Cryptic and its mid-sized MMOs.  There’s always issues with bugs and skimpy content, but what’s there is usually pretty enjoyable.  Plus, I like the studio’s devotion to F2P; Star Trek Online still has one of the most generous F2P models, and Neverwinter looks to be similar.

Neverwinter really wasn’t on my radar until I started hearing surprisingly positive reports about it from conventions.  You know the type: “I expected this to be a turd, but dang if it isn’t the sleeper hit of the show” kinds of things.  Not perfect, but fun to play.

That’s the impression I got from the few beta weekends I participated in.  While the character creator is really skimpy and the Foundry reportedly in shambles, the core game itself looks fantastic and is pretty fun to play.  It’s more action/arcade-like than a traditional MMO, but for some reason it works here.  The dungeons still have plenty of traps and secrets to navigate, the combat has oomph to it, and the world is classic D&D.

Plus, there are several features in Neverwinter that I love to see: a useful group finder, combat companions (which can be leveled and swapped), cosmetic clothing, player-created content, and mounts that can be used in the city.  I do have plans to make my own adventures for others to experience, and I’ll be letting you all know when that happens.  They’ll probably all revolve around killing Elves.

As a mid-size game, I’m not heaping expectations on it, either.  It’s not going to be an industry-changer in any sense, but if it entertains and gives me reason to keep on playing, I’ll be happy.

SWTOR: A Bounty Hunter on the prowl

BlizzBecause getting ready to go on a vacation and preparing for Neverwinter’s soft launch tomorrow isn’t enough to keep me busy, I loaded back up SWTOR to check out the game’s changes since 2.0 went live.  I thumbed through the few characters that I’d created during the subscription era and found a fresh new Bounty Hunter with an unlocked race and expanded inventory to enjoy.  Sounds good to me.  Guess I’ll try my hand at a tank.

It’s not been terrible returning.  The combat isn’t as free-flowing as what I’m used to in GW2, but it’s satisfying and scratches the ranged combat itch in me.  I particularly like the addition of achievements, a few of which are tied to tangible rewards (such as cartel coins).  It does seem like there aren’t as many rewards tied in with these as I’d prefer, but it’s nice to have secondary goals while puttering around on a planet.

So I’m getting used to Ghostfire, a Bounty Hunter who loves to indulge in dark side choices while being sugary and sweet to those she likes.  Going through Hutta is a huge nostalgia trip as I feel all of my long-term memories being downloaded back into short-term for quick recall.  Oh, there’s where that datacron is.  I remember this quest.  Those aliens really want to make me kick their butt.  Etc.

I think LOTRO is spoiling me with its remote looting, because clicking on mobs to loot seems so passe now.  Even GW2/TSW allows you to loot nearby corpses with a button press, which is much faster.

I think I’ll be keeping my time with SWTOR pretty casual right now.  I know that XP gains dip for F2Pers after level 10, which does a number on my enthusiasm for gaming, but we’ll see how bad it is.  I saw that joining a guild gives you a 5% XP gain boost, and perhaps running the three flashpoints per week can supplement things to keep me up to par.

Maybe one day I’ll see the expansion content, even.  I’ve heard good things.  But for now I’m just trudging through the industrial muck of Hutta and dreaming about one day finding a Jawa sidekick to love.

Battle Bards Episode 2: Final Fantasy XI

bardssquaresmallWelcome back to Battle Bards, a collaborative bi-weekly podcast that listens to and discusses MMO soundtracks!  On our second podcast, Syl, Syp, and Steff tackle the daunting and exuberant score of Final Fantasy XI.  It’s an hour full of whimsy, mogs, and earworms!

Episode 2 show notes

Contact the Bards:

Special thanks to Tesh for the logo!

Guild Wars 2: Exploding pink butterflies

gamsMy focus in Guild Wars 2 as of late has been with my punk Mesmer. The Mesmer is an interesting change of pace, and I’m still getting the hang of the class’ mechanics. It’s a caster class that does a lot of strange things, like summon temporary clones/illusions, mess with enemies’ heads, and fiddle with conditions. There’s a lot of variety in weapon choices, ranging from a two-handed sword (which is actually used to channel ranged damage) to one-handed swords (for slashing melee) to a staff (group attack/debuff/buffs), and so on. Many of these weapons impact which illusion you’ll be pulling out, and I’m somewhat partial to having an off-hand pistol for the illusionary pistoleer.

My favorite part of the class is detonating illusions and clones to hit enemies with damage or status effects. Yeah, fear the power of my exploding pink butterflies, fool! It took me a little while to get used to how disposable my clones are; I was reluctant to get rid of any assets on the field. But exploding them at the right moment can provide a huge damage spike that can severely weaken or take out a group of bad guys, and getting new ones is not that difficult.

I really do have to be light on my feet, since I can go down pretty fast. Who would have thought that wearing a French maid outfit wouldn’t give me much protection in the middle of battle? Perhaps my character is trying to dazzle everyone with her legs. Everyone knows that Charr have a weakness for gams.

I’ve been slowly going through Queensdale, trying to build up levels so that I’m not biting off more than I can chew. This time around I’m definitely focusing a lot more on events which has been pretty enjoyable. Forget the cutscenes of the personal story; the NPC interactions during these events are much more engrossing. Escorts are usually my least favorite (per usual), but I’m always up for taking back a camp or defending an area from marauding whatevers. The chaos can feel like a genuine pitched battle, and I’m pleased to see how players are still gravitating toward these events and help each other out during them. One of the best design decisions that ArenaNet made in this game was allowing any player to resurrect at any time.  Definitely helps to enforce team spirit.

And teen spirit

because

here we are now

entertain us

i feel stupid

and contagious

Whatever happened to Nirvana, anyway?  They kind of disappeared off the radar.

Too Long; Didn’t Listen episode 60 is up!

tldlsquareIs it strange that in games where we spend 90% of our time performing wonton acts of slaughter, we’re also concerned about proper manners?  Perhaps it is, but we’ve gotten used to it.  On today’s episode, Dodge and Syp talk about combat styles and community maturity — not that either of them have style or maturity.

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 60 here!

March MMO/MOBA poll results

Let’s take a look at the poll results from Bio Break readers’ game activity in March, shall we and compare it to the February poll?

The Top 15

  1. Guild Wars 2     (101 votes, no change)
  2. Lord of the Rings Online     (66 votes, no change)    
  3. World of Warcraft     (56 votes, +2 spots)     
  4. The Secret World     (53 votes, -1 spot)    
  5. Star Wars: The Old Republic     (43 votes, -1 spot)     
  6. Defiance     (31 votes, +3 spots)     
  7. Star Trek Online     (30 votes, -1 spot)     
  8. Neverwinter     (27 votes, +6 spots)    
  9. World of Tanks     (26 votes, NA)     
  10. RIFT     (25 votes, -4 spots)     
  11. [tie] PlanetSide 2     (23 votes, +1 spot)     
  12. [tie] League of Legends     (23 votes, NA)   
  13. TERA     (21 votes, -7 spots)     
  14. Path of Exile     (18 votes, NA)     
  15. EVE Online     (17 votes, -5 spots)    

Contenders

EverQuest II (15 votes), Diablo III (12 votes), MechWarrior Online (11 votes), DDO (10 votes), Firefall (9 votes), EverQuest (8 votes), DCUO (8 votes), Dota 2 (8 votes), Age of Wushu (7 votes)

The Dregs

Guild Wars (6 votes), Marvel Heroes (6 votes), Unnamed beta (5 votes), Vanguard (5 votes), Champions Online (4 votes), RuneScape (3 votes), Age of Conan (3 votes), WURM Online (2 votes), Pirate101 (2 votes), Final Fantasy XIV (2 votes), DAOC (2 votes), Scarlet Blade (2 votes)

The One-Pointers

PlanetSide, Free Realms, Wizard101, Lineage II, Final Fantasy XI, Anarchy Online, Allods Online, Darkfall,  Aion, A Tale in the Desert, Pirates of the Burning Sea, SMITE, Wakfu, Wizardry Online, Star Stable, Fallen Earth, Need for Speed World, Hawken, Istaria, War Thunder, Book of Heroes, Eden Eternal

No votes

AC, AC2, Runes of Magic, Global Agenda, Lineage, Warhammer Online, Ultima Online, City of Steam, APB Reloaded, Vindictus

Thoughts

Since we factored in MOBAs this month, the standings are definitely skewed from February, so don’t take the movement up and down the chart much.  Guild Wars 2 is still the undisputed champion among Bio Break’s readership, and Defiance and Neverwinter have good showings for their debut month (Age of Wushu not so much).  Surprises include 5 people playing Vanguard and 10 playing DDO — don’t hear much about either of those titles as of late.