Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Master of Orion: Out with a bang

(This is part of my journey playing through Master of Orion.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

As I’m sitting here in Seattle waiting for the PAX craziness to start, I figure it’s as good as any time to have a final Master of Orion session.  I think I’m definitely at a point where I want to move on to a new game and want to quit while I’m still somewhat happy with this particular playthrough instead of getting too frustrated.

So when you know you’re going to go out, you might as well go out with a bang.  I gather up my entire fleet and give them one suicidal order: storm the gates of Orion.  Take on the Guardian.  See if we can defeat him, but if not, just fold gracefully.

final1As my fleet traverses the distance to Orion, the cheerful GNN robot comes on to deliver an upbeat report:

genocideGenocide!  It makes for good ratings, I guess.  You don’t have to look so smug about it, tho.

Since my planets keep churning out ships, I form a second fleet and wing them Ysharros’ way, just for the heck of it.  Sometimes not caring at all can be a joy in and of itself.

So here we go, the final battle with the Guardian of Orion:

guardianHis opening move?  Giant fireball of doom.  Hm.

It… doesn’t go well for me.  At all.

battleActually, my ships do hang in there far longer than I expected.  The Guardian moves really fast and can hit my ships from across the screen, while my guys have to plod over no man’s land just to get within point-blank range to shoot.  Still, the battle lasts for 30 seconds and I see all sorts of neat effects.  My final ship?  A lone Battlechick fighter.  Because MOO doesn’t really show you hit points unless you use certain tech on your ships to show it, I have no idea what the Guardian was at when I was obliterated.  Probably 100% health.

The end is pretty fun, though.  My fleets quickly blitz through Ysharros’ and Ocho’s defenses, bomb those planets into extinction, and then dash away.  My final turn has GNN popping up to give me this happy news:

cometMan, that brings me back.  Those random events do help a lot to keep games from becoming stale.


So we come to the end of this Master of Orion playthrough.  It was, to use a tired term, a blast.  I was a little worried that it wouldn’t retain the same charm that it had in the mid-90s, but that wasn’t the case at all.  There’s still a lot to love about the game: delightfully retro pixel graphics, an easy-to-understand interface, fun tech trees, and the joy of building a galactic empire.

I think a lot of you hit it on the head when you’ve commented that the real strength of the 4X games is the freedom to create and tell your own story, the story of an empire.  The Bio Break empire might not have been successful in the end — for many reasons that are obvious looking back now — but it was a great ride.

Sure, there are several things that I would love to see changed if someone was going to update this for modern sensibilities.  Faster map movement (the click-to-move-the-map thing is so annoying), for one.  More ship icons — there are way too few of them.  A better AI.  A diplomacy system that isn’t just “war” or “not war”.  A trade system.

But overall?  It’s a great game that I recommend to any of you that found this playthrough entertaining.  It plays wonderful today, shining with that Microprose polish that I loved back in my youth.

Perhaps one day I’ll get around to MOO2, a game that I really don’t have much experience with at all.  But not today.

Posted in Card Hunter

Forget Hearthstone, Card Hunter will fill the CCG void in my life

Yeah, I’m still a little peeved that I seem to be one of like three people who haven’t gotten into the Hearthstone beta, but never mind: Card Hunter just announced it’s going live on September 12, and I’m like “Hearthstone who?”

(Not that I won’t play it.)

This is one of my big “must have’s” of the year based on my time in the beta, and I cannot wait to get in and collecting gear, stomping enemies, and reliving my non-existent PnP D&D days.  Everyone says that the completely free option is pretty generous, but I’m excited enough to want to buy the basic edition special for $25.  Maybe that’s just the heat of the moment talking, so we’ll see.

Anyway.  So pumped up for this!  Just wish I had it on a tablet for the plane tomorrow.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Master of Orion: Trading places

(This is part of my journey playing through Master of Orion.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

techIt’s fun watching this particular series resonate with players; Master of Orion and many of the 4X games have special places in gamers’ hearts, and Ocho has a great explanation why: We create our own stories.  I agree.  I love being told stories and experiencing them in MMOs, but I also love making them.  It doesn’t have to be a one-or-the-other proposition.

Back to the game… I’m marshaling my forces for a strike on the nearby Alkari planet of Spica, but even so I’m keeping close tabs on the map in case I see the enemy trying to strike out  first.  Nine of my Teppo-class bombers are ready and I send them to the front line.  I’m also starting to think that it’s about time to spin down the KTR production and switch everyone over to a new ship with a more modern arsenal.  My research monkeys (silicon monkeys, rimshot) keep coming up with new tech quite fast, and I hope I’m pulling ahead in the research race at this point.

The new Hoppy-class battleships are filled to the brim with the latest and greatest: top-notch shielding, armor, countermeasures, and engines.  Defensively they’re great, but offensively they’re a little lacking.  I do have some of the new missiles in them and a few other weapons, but they’re more made for slugging than fast strikes.  I convert all my production over to making them.

The Alkari seem to be doing the opposite, favoring mass production of fighters — 1600 of them, plus assorted other ships, are heading back toward Ysharros.  Well, this will be interesting.  It almost doesn’t matter how advanced my ships are; 1600 of anything is going to steamroll them.  And I am NOT prepared to lose my fleet.

So I decide to stop trying to defend Ysharros and juke right around the enemy forces to send my own fleet to Spica:

jukeBest case scenario is that we trade planets, but I’m hoping that the Alkari will get their nose really bloodied and freak out over their planet.  I know, that’s a lot to put on the AI.

In the end, we both obliterate each other’s colonies, although I lose a heck of a lot of KTRs in the process and the enemy doesn’t lose a single ship.  Mutual assured destruction, my friends.  The Darlocks freak and say that I don’t have honor because I’m using biological weapons.  So… using nukes was fine?  And it was hunky dory when the Alkari were raining death spores down on Werit and Ocho?  But this crosses the line?

I console myself with the fact that I have planets I can afford to lose while the Alkari do not.  Plus, I start production on small agile Battlechick fighters and crank out a few hundred of them on the first turn.

I feel like everything is spinning out of my control.  I know it’s boring to say this, but the most fun I have with 4X games is when I’m roflstomping over the enemy with ease, not when I’m scrabbling just to stay afloat against an enemy that I have a 2-1 planetary advantage over.  It’s taking a lot of my will to play through this game and not start over.

To make matters worse, a GNN report tells me that I’m #3 in fleet strength — the Alkari are #1 and the Sakkra (!) are #2.  I think the Sakkra are there because they haven’t fought at all and the computer just keeps cranking out new ships.

Hey, what about pouring some lemon juice in that wound?  Here ya go!

ochoThat’s right: The Alkari have not only managed to recolonize Spica but also Ysharros and Ocho as well.

Fine.   Forget getting a technological edge.  I go around to all of my planets and tell them to start making ships full-on, non-stop.  It’s a last-ditch effort to win; if I can’t gain a production advantage, I’m going to be sunk soon.

Meet the Snafzg, the ship my hopes and dreams rest upon now:

snafzgMedium ship, so I can pump them out fast.  Good speed, good defense, and two powerful weapons.  Let’s do this.  Every planet goes to 100% ship production and 43 Snafzgs come out on turn one.

It looks as though Psychochild is destined to be, once again, the site of a major battleground.  My fleet forms while the massive enemy fleet that destroyed Ysharros swoops in.  My fleet is too small.  There’s no way I can…

treatyGuh?  What the?  At the moment of your impending victory, you just decide to call it a day?

Well, I’m not going to look a space-gift horse in the mouth.  I will take a stay of execution.

To be honest, I’m starting to feel frustrated with this particular game (not MOO specifically, just this game of it).  I shouldn’t have been so hasty to get into war in the first place, and now that I have, I’m in some sort of weird Vietnam where I can’t figure out the right way to proceed.  Losing two planets in the past couple of sessions didn’t help, and knowing that two of the enemy forces can overpower me easily is aggravating.  Really, if it wasn’t for this series, I would quit and restart.

But I’ll see it through.  At least a couple more sessions.

Posted in Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 10: Age of Conan

bardssquaresmallWhat pleases the Battle Bards? To crush their enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their husbands.  Also, good music, which is why the bards are diving into the Age of Conan soundtrack this week!  There are divided opinions on this incredibly popular score — listen and see where you fall!

Episode 10 show notes

  • Introduction (including “Northern Grassland”)
  • “Hamlets of Aquilonia”
  • “All Heroes Unite”
  • “Memories of Cimmeria”
  • “Villages of Khitai”
  • “Ambush from Three Directions”
  • “The Sands of Forgetfullness/Tortage Beach”
  • “The Damp Barachan Nights”
  • Mailbag
  • Outro

Special thanks to Tesh for the Battle Bards logo!

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Die Die Die, Die Die.

magitechIf the Bazaar of the Four Winds and that weird election represented a low point of my recent interest in Guild Wars 2, then the combo of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Clockwork Chaos represent a rebound of tremendous proportions.  Of course, maybe that’s the good thing about this “every two weeks with the new content” strategy — like everyone is fond of saying of their native state/country, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.”  So if you don’t like the content, just wait two weeks.

It’s not that these recent releases have really upped the story oomph any.  I mean, to give it credit, there have been a few interactive scenes that were entertaining while I went, “Hey, who’s that character?  Who’s that?  Oh, I guess we have a new villain now that nobody knows anything about.  Makes sense that it’s a plant-elf, tho.  Probably Tremaine’s long-lost sister or something.”

What’s made me happy is that the activities of these two updates have played to GW2’s strength: Getting people together in big, happy, chaotic groups and unleashing them on bosses.  It’s exactly the same thing I love about RIFT, what with the dynamic world events and all.

Maybe they don’t require a lot of hard strategy and careful maneuvering, but I prefer these messy battles where craptons of stuff is going on all at the same time and everyone’s pulling together to accomplish something.  Even a year after GW2’s launch, I still see players rezzing each other almost constantly, and that does make me happy.  And amid the rezzes and zergs and land-rending battles, I’m a happy clam.  I’m getting to play alone together as much as I like here, and I don’t have to worry about letting my team down so much as just chipping in and doing my best.

Plus, the loot.  Oh my goodness, the loot.  I got hooked on these invasions after the first time through them, seeing how my bags grew to bursting from 45 minutes of play.  Guild Wars 2 does loot right in a weird way.  I mean, a lot of what I’m getting, no, I’m not going to use.  But it’s fun to get it anyway, and occasionally you get the cool consumables or exotics or hugely valuable mats that make it worthwhile.  And you get LOTS of it.  I’m running around these invasions with my trusty flamethrower, vacuuming up loot, hoping for champions, and just really enjoying the madcap mayhem of it all.  Reminded me a lot of the maze from the Halloween event.

Fending off an invasion and downing Scarlet felt like a good accomplishment (and it’s nice that ArenaNet still rewards you with a consolation prize if you can’t go all the way), and I’m not complaining about all of the achievement points I’ve been getting.  But the best part is after an invasion is done, I zip over to Rata Sum and spend about ten minutes sorting through all of the goods I won and selling them through the trading post and a vendor.  I do keep the skill scrolls (I got about 30 of these from five or so hours of play this weekend), karma potions (um… more of these than I can count), black lion chests, and queen’s gauntlet tickets (I’m hoping that we’ll be able to sell those to a vendor after the event is done), but the rest goes on sale.

I made it a goal of the weekend to raise funds to buy enough gems to afford a magitech armor set that I thought would look awesome for my engineer.  Even with a spike in gem prices, it became really doable as I was pulling in 3-7 gold with each invasion.  Before I knew it, I surpassed my 800 gem goal to rake in 1224 gems, and the fancy new outfit is mine (see above right).

So a great weekend based on my satisfaction and accomplished goals.  I’m sure that these nonstop invasions will get old after a while, but I wouldn’t mind a couple more weeks with them to pad my bank account.

Posted in General

Going to PAX? So am I!

I’m excited and a little bit nervous to be heading to PAX this week — my first since PAX East a couple of years ago.  I’m in the throes of packing and planning, which is considerably more nuts since it’s a work trip.  My schedule is packed full of appointments and interviews, but that’s part of the fun of it.

So a few people have sent me notes asking to meet or hang out or whatever.  Because my schedule is hectic, here’s the best way to get your own Syp autograph/revenge speech:

  • Come to the MMO Reporter party on Thursday night.  You have to RSVP if you’re coming, but I’ll be hanging with the great MMO Reporter crew, and they’ll have lots of prizes to give away.  I should also be at the WildStar and Guild Wars 2 parties on Saturday night.
  • If we can get a few people together, I’d be available for breakfast on Sunday.  Leave a comment below and we’ll see what we can put together.
  • Just follow me on Twitter and I’ll either say where I’m at or you can shoot me a message at the convention.

Also, because of PAX I won’t be blogging for a good part of this week!  Just a heads up if you need to contact your support group in advance or something.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Master of Orion: Stalemate

(This is part of my journey playing through Master of Orion.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

I gotta say, I’m starting to feel really good about the game right now.  I don’t think the AI is advanced enough to ask for a cease-fire in order to sucker me, so I’m assuming that the Alkari have taken enough hits (plus a lost planet) that it’s starting to really put the hurt on them.  That means the advantage is all mine.  MINE.

sneakattackOr maybe not.  The Alkari send me a message that they’re freaking out over me building up arms on their border, and a big fleet of theirs is heading back toward Ysharros.  O RLY, birds?  I think not.

Whew, false alarm.  I guess what happened is that the AI sent the fleet out before the peace treaty, so the second it gets to Ysharros, it turns around and goes to Spica.

Hm.  Spica.  Looks tempting.  Time to press my advantage, I think.

Here’s the little welcoming party that I send down to Spica:

myfleetThe Mrrshan and Darloks both sue for peace and I grant it — it doesn’t hurt to have a peaceful galaxy.  Y’know, for one more turn.  Yes, I’m humming the Ride of the Valkyrie in my head, why do you ask?

Ack… when I get there, there’s a small speed bump: Spica has 16 planetary defenses built up.  And since all I have are the KTRs with nukes, I’m probably not going to be able to take them without getting seriously banged up.  I need bombers and lots of them.  So I retreat and start production on the Teppo-class bombers.  Meanwhile, everyone declares war on me again, because that’s just a fashionable thing to do.

While I prepare for the usual Ysharros defense, Ocho is destroyed.  Again.  Seriously, Ocho?  Can’t you go a day without getting blow’d up?

All in all, this quick game session has felt like an enormous stalemate to me.  I have the firepower to press the offensive, but I need to get enough of those bombers in my fleet so that they can take out the planetary defenses.  It’s going to take time.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Master of Orion: Birdmageddon

(This is part of my journey playing through Master of Orion.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

Ysharros is fallen.  My fleet is ragged and bloody.  Yet still I persist, still my factories of war crank out engines of doom.  And I have Ion Rifles.

First things first today: I need faster ships.  The Stropps are nice and all, but they’ve got the slow engines and take way too long to build.  So I pull up the ship design screen and come up with the KTR:

shipdesignI love ship design in this game.  It’s simple yet has choices.  What you really have to consider when making a new ship is how much it’ll cost (which determines how long it takes for a planet to make one) and your space budget.

The KTR is a medium ship, so its space budget is limited — but far, far better than  small ships.  I settle for a Class I shield even though I have a Class II and Titanium I armor instead of Titanium II.  In exchange for these concessions, I can fit on the new nuclear engines and a wide range of weapons including rockets, lasers, and bombs.  It’s going to be a little more fragile than I’d like, but I’m hoping that sheer numbers, a versatile usage, and a harder punch will make up for it.

On the first turn, I pump out 40 of the new ships.  Ooo, this is going to be fun.

A stroke of good luck follows:

sucksHey, I’ll take it.  I need all the edge I can get right now.  This is followed by the Sakkra ambassador coming to my doorstep and asking if we can stop the war.  Like you guys have been able to do anything in that department at all in the past 30 turns, but OK, fine.  That’s one less faction that’s trying to bring me down right now.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “So what are you going to do about Ysharros?  Are you going to let that travesty stand?”  No, I am not, but it’s taking me a bit of time to put together a counter-invasion.  The problem is that the Alkari keep sending in wave after wave of ships at me, and I need to keep my fleet together to fend them off.

An absolutely massive fleet battle breaks out over Ocho:

ochobattleMy ships hold up really well, although there are casualties on both sides.  While I send the Alkari packing, a few of their large ships bomb Ocho.  Well, it turns out that that was enough to fully destroy the colony and leave me holding nothing.

That’s right: Ocho is no more.

I make Psychochild my new front-line base, shifting my production to send ships there, and create a new colony ship to go to Ocho.  I also send two smaller fleets to converge upon Ysharros, which right now is only lightly guarded.  Syp ain’t taking this lying down, no sirree.

stroppBirdmageddon is upon us, my friends.  My fleet arrives at Ysharros and kicks the everloving crud out of the Alkari.  It’s obvious that I’m enjoying a slightly higher tech level, because my ships are standing up to fire quite admirably while cutting through the enemy. Taking back the airspace, I bomb all but 2 of the population and then order Psychochild to send 30 transports that way.

Over on the now-dead Ocho, an even bigger miracle happens: A very large Alkari fleet arrives right as most of my fleet had left.  The enemy has a colony ship, so they’re obviously looking to nab it.  All I have is 30 or so KTRs that have trickled in, yet they go on a rampage, smacking large ships left and right, and losing only about 4 of their own number in the end.  It’s just… glorious.

Meanwhile, the Alkari haven’t given up on Ysharros — they keep sending bad guys to the slaughter.

yahhhYeahhh… that’ll go well for you.  Idiots.

My troops then land on Ysharros and take it with ease.  It’s the first enemy planet of the game that I’ve taken, and it’s given me a taste for more.  Time to push an offensive and take the fight to these space-bound avians.

A couple of failed counter-strikes by the Alkari against Ysharros later, and I’m treated to this delicious sight:


Yeah, I’ll take the peace treaty… for now.  Give me a few turns of “peace” to ready my forces, and the Alkari are going to regret everything they’ve ever done.  Stupid fictional computer race.

And poor Ocho?  Re-founded.  It’s a good note to end the session on.