Posted in General

Blaugust returns!

blaugustTomorrow marks the return of Belghast’s annual blogger event, Blaugust. Started a few years ago, Blaugust was Bel’s way of encouraging the blogging community to commit to 31 days of blog posts, kind of like how NaNoWriMo does earlier on in the summer. I think it’s a fine idea, since it’s completely voluntary and serves as great motivation to those wanting to get back on the blogging horse or those open to a fun experiment.

I’m down for it, of course. I don’t usually blog on the weekend, but I think I could prep a couple of posts to cover those days. It’s been a little quieter than normal here at Bio Break as of late, mostly because I’m going through two intense weeks of work — last week was our summer teen mission trip and this week is the church’s VBS. As a result, I’ve had very little time to write, nevermind catch up on reading the hundreds of blog posts in my reader.

So I’m looking forward to things calming down (relatively). I would like to get back to Star Trek 25th Anniversary at some point too, but that’s way down on the priority list at the moment.

Anyway, good luck to my fellow… Blaugustinians (?). May the writing bug bite you in a tender location and inspire you to ever-greater word counts.

Posted in Marvel Heroes, World of Warcraft

Pirates, expansions, Gorgon, servers, and builds

pirateIt’s time for a grab-bag Thursday post! Let’s see, what shall we talk about first… how about pirates?

Marvel Heroes: Last night I made it my mission to acquire the free Pirate Deadpool team-up from the secret achievement chain that was recently added to the game. Not that I really needed another team-up — I’m pretty much swimming in them at this point — but free is free, and who wouldn’t want a sarcastic pirate shadowing them?

Start to finish, it took me about an hour and a half to do. The tricky part was that most of the achievements didn’t trigger until I teleported back to a hub, which meant that I kept having to head back to see if I had acquired the next step or not. I took Squirrel Girl along for this one because she can roflstomp just about anything now and that’s pretty fun to see.

Our new guild, Massively Underpowered, is growing by leaps and bounds! It’s great to see bloggers, friends, and MOP readers join the conversation. If you want to hook up with us, look for Sypster, Braxwolf, or Angyll in-game.

Project Gorgon: It’s really exciting to see the Kickstarter continue to push forward, as it’s growing by $1-2K a day. Up to $16,400 as of this writing and plenty of time left. Here’s hoping they shoot past the goal this weekend and get a lot more than expected by the time all is said and done. I’m glad that it’s getting more press and word-of-mouth this time around.

World of Warcraft: Looks like Blizzard is going to announce the newest expansion next week instead of waiting until November’s BlizzCon, which is a smart move. Lots of anxious and disgruntled WoW players out there over the short expansion cycle, so here’s hoping that Blizzard is going to not only tell the community what the expansion is but also announce that it will be coming a lot sooner than expected.

Lord of the Rings Online: I still haven’t re-installed LOTRO since getting the new computer so I’m not part of the current drama/migration of the server merges. It is something that needed to happen, and I can only pray that Turbine handles it smartly without shredding too many of its sub-communities.

SWTOR: I ran a flashpoint last night — the Nar Shaddaa one, I forget the name — and started to doubt my Twi’lek’s destiny as a healer. Oh, I healed just fine, although it is frustrating to do so with such a limited array of tools. I don’t know how the bodyguard heals at higher levels, but right now it feels like running around with bandaids when people are losing limbs.

So I did take a peek at the two DPS builds for the merc and mulled over if I want to keep pushing forward as a healer or to just wimp out and give myself some serious firepower. No change yet, but long slogs through flashpoints while tossing out ineffectual heals and overheating are not endearing me to healing right now.

Posted in Project Gorgon

Project Gorgon: First impressions — or first kiss

I… don’t know what’s come over me. I really don’t. A few days ago, Project: Gorgon was that interesting indie MMO with a terribad name, and now I’ve become a Kickstarter supporter (my first pledge ever) while raving to anyone I can find about how innovative and clever and funny this title is. Maybe it needed the bad name and 2003-era graphics to ward the mainstream off, lest it be overrun beyond control? I don’t know, but I will tell you that merely going through the tutorial the other night severely impressed me with the potential on display.

I mean, most tutorials and beginner zones in MMOs are tame affairs with killing, a light story, and not much else. Here, I lived a full RPG life merely trying to get through a cave. That says something to me.

gorg1So this was a first in my MMO career: I was killed (knocked out?) on the character creation screen. Seriously. I clicked “create character” and she was gunned down by these creepy-looking women, all without changing the scene. I was shocked for a moment and then laughed my head off because it’s still possible to be surprised by these games. “Hi, welcome to our game! Now you’re dead!”

gorg2Project: Gorgon isn’t your same-old MMO. While it handles very similarly (hotbars, movement, etc.), what it really is is a skill-based RPG that is as much — or more — about exploration than combat. This is a game that wants you to go poking around and learning its insane number of skills, from mushroom picking to (I kid you not) dying. Yes, you can level up in dying.

It’s not going to win any beauty awards, although it’s not as hideous as some have claimed. Hopefully the new Kickstarter campaign will fund and provide for better graphics, because the core gameplay is surprisingly solid (and this for an alpha). You walk around, click on things, and see what options are available. Gradually, you pick up more skills and have more interactions with the world, from picking mushrooms to crafting spore bombs to taming rats to performing autopsies on corpses.

Again, this is all stuff you end up doing before you ever leave the tutorial. It’s beyond nutty. Oh, and if you get bored? There’s a mini-game in the menu that challenges you to find as many words within a big word before a time limit runs out. Just because.

gorg3This dead elf put another plus in the game’s favor.

So I slowly, methodically explored the tutorial cave. Some of the animations — jumping, particularly — felt very basic and slippery, although combat clicked for me. Speaking of, combat’s an interesting bag here. You can equip two schools of combat at any one time, with two six-slot hotbars offering skills from each. For example, I had both archery and sword fighting going, allowing for both ranged and melee attacks. Skills for the hotbars are gradually unlocked as you level up, and most are pretty self-explanatory. I really appreciated that targeting a creature and then hitting a skill would auto-move your character into range to use that skill.

As a twist, there’s a “rage” meter on enemies. Attack too often, and the meter tops out, giving the enemy a strong attack (for example, the skeletons will stun you). But you can empty out the rage meter with certain skills, such as parry. It’s clever and encourages a wider rotation.

gorg4Bosses in Project: Gorgon are nothing to mess with. Really. First of all, the game freaks you out by blaring a siren and showing a whole bunch of weird floating text that mostly makes no sense. This is your “intuition warning” telling you that a big bad is up ahead. The tutorial kept flashing warning text boxes at me too, informing me that bosses will not only kill me, but inflict (semi-)permanent curses that you generally don’t want. Then again, I’ve heard that a boss curses players by turning them into cows, which can then be played for the rest of the game. I SO WANT TO BE A COW YOU GUYS.

The only way you can clear a curse is to defeat the boss. I didn’t fight this boss, by the way. The number of player tombstones around convinced me that it wouldn’t be worth it, especially not knowing what curse was attached.

gorg5Let’s see… what else happened before I ended up leaving the cave? I almost have to make a bullet point list here:

  • I learned how to charm rats with cheese and befriended a rodent who fought for me before being incinerated by a skeletal mage.
  • I leveled up Gourmand by eating gruel.
  • I found a strange tree that had snow (I think?) falling on it and some cryptic notes nearby. Never found out what that was about.
  • I solved a couple of puzzles that gave me access to chests full of rewards.
  • I had to level up my unarmed fighting ability to meet the stat requirements for a new pair of purple boots.
  • I got set on fire by a puzzle and had to run into a pond to put it out.
  • I couldn’t beat the MEGASPIDER until I waited around and fought it with two other players. They both died and I barely killed it before dying myself.
  • I gained the ability to do autopsies and butcher corpses, because I am that gross.
  • And somewhere along the line, I got infected by lice, which won’t go away until I find a cure.

vendorOh! Another neat feature is the NPC favor system. You can do quests and give gifts to NPCs to unlock… stuff, I guess. I was talking with this lady, did a quest for her and got a scroll with a clue how to beat a nearby trap. I noticed that there’s an option to “hang out” with her while I’m offline, granting me additional favor points with her when I come back.

Project: Gorgon is certainly weird and rough and full of meta-humor, but it gave me such a ride on that first night that I can’t wait to play it again. Finally, here’s a first-look video that I wanted to pass along if you want to get a quick overview:

Posted in Marvel Heroes

Marvel Heroes: Join our new supergroup, Massively Underpowered!

scarlet2So Braxwolf and I were talking about our frustration with finding an active supergroup in Marvel Heroes, which led us to founding our own. Last night, Massively Underpowered came into being, a semi-official guild for both Massively Overpowered, bloggers, and associated circles of gamers.

scarlet3If you’d like to join up with us, you’re more than welcome — just friend and message Sypster or Braxwolf in-game, and we’ll hook you up. We have no greater plans than to foster a thriving social community and to run group stuff together on occasion, which is perfect for the casual gamer.

While I’m still recovering from my mission trip last week and thus not quite up to long, late-night gaming sessions, I did manage an hour or so of Midtown Monday. This proved fortuitous for my Scarlet Witch, as I got her from 55 to 60 during that period, making her my fifth level 60. I don’t know if I’ll be decking her out after this point, but at least she’s there if I want the option. She’s pretty mindless to play, with AoE fields and really nice signature/ultimates. Sometimes you do want mindless, tho!

Now that she’s there at 60, I’m divided between getting Doctor Doom or Ant-Man the rest of the way. One and then the other, most likely. I’m still waiting for a Doctor Doom costume that isn’t GIGANTIC CAPES, although maybe I should stop holding my breath on that one. He does have tremendously fun powers and summons, tho.

scarletI took advantage of the bonus G sale this past weekend to splurge on a few purchases. Actually, I’m going to admit how dumb I was, because I didn’t read the finer print on another promotion they had going, which I thought was giving you two different random hero tokens for 450 G. Great deal, huh? Two heroes for less than the price of any one in the store. Except that what it actually is is a random selection of two identicial tokens — so either two more ultimate tokens for a hero you already have or a new hero and his/her ultimate upgrade.

Took me two purchaes to figure that one out. The first time I got two Black Panther tokens (who I already have), which I thought was a fluke. Then I got two Things — a new hero, fortunately — and wised up to what was going on.

With my remaining Gs, I bought two cheaper heroes, Black Widow and X-23. I also picked up a costume for X-23, which rewarded me with a bonus random costume — the warbird outfit for Ms. Marvel. That was a costume I was actually eying for her, so go me. At least I came out of it with a handful of new heroes to try out and some snazzy looks. It was all impulse purchases anyway, so no complaining here!

Anyway, if you want to join Massively Underpowered, look for me in-game or sent me a note and I’ll get you set up.

Posted in Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World, WildStar

6 things that bug me about MMOs that I like

bugmeI think we’re always loathe to outright criticize MMOs that we really like in fear that it will push players away from games that are otherwise terrific. But if you are too scared to do so, then you gain blinders and lose perspective.

Thus, this is my small Monday morning measure of attaining balance by admitting to six things that kind of really bug me about MMOs that I like.

WildStar: For a game that has made such a big, big deal about customization (and excels in this in many areas), the fact that classes can wield one and only one type of weapon (set) vastly annoys me. In most MMOs you can choose from different weapon types and experience different visual flair and animations, but here? What you got at level 1 is the same at level 50.

The Secret World: This game’s wonderful storytelling and nuanced body language is sometimes undercut by faces that are ugly and border on the uncanny valley. The facial art style doesn’t gel for me the way that it should and serves as an irritant when I’m trying to get into the tale.

Marvel Heroes: This game’s social tools are really lacking, I’ve found. There needs to be support to join multiple supergroups, better supergroup tools, and a proper LFG tool. Fast track these, Gazillion!

Star Wars: The Old Republic: I do love that the game has housing, but coming from other MMOs like RIFT and WildStar, it can’t help but fail to live up to the industry standard. I am not a fan of the clumsy hooks and placement interface that makes sorting through one’s decor far more tedious than it should be.

RIFT: Such ugly armor. Such ugly. It makes the awesome wardrobe system weep in frustration. What is up with the armor artists in this game? Why must we all look like first drafts of a ninth grader’s fantasy portfolio?

Neverwinter: Cryptic not only failed to live up to the insanely high standard it set for character creation in City of Heroes, but failed to live up to the industry medium in this respect. I am stunned how hard it is to make good or interesting-looking characters in this game with the sub-par customization options on display. Do they even know how hair looks?

Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR: Bounty hunting’s more fun with Mako!

mako1At the SWTOR endgame, it kind of stinks that your interaction with your companions is limited to finishing up their storylines and the occasional combat quote they throw out. Going through the bounty hunter storyline is reminding me of how fun it is to have a companion there for color, commentary, and even ethical influence.

For starting companions, I have to give it up to Mako. Lots better than some other starting companions I’ve seen. Little young and naive, but she’s also got a wickedly funny streak to her that’s made me chortle more than once during dialogue bits.

mako2Hey look, that’s the new (third edition) Yeeti on the right there! I agonized over skin color, particularly the traditional blue, the movie green, or this bright pink/peach/red hue. Pink won out just to be different from the blue Chiss.

Also, it’s not a Star Wars story without some implied incest, right?

mako3Star Wars: Big Important Desk of the Old Republic. I would totally play that.

I did try out the other Mako heads that I was offered early on in the personal story, but none of them fit her as well as this one.

When Mako isn’t there to be snarky during cutscenes, I’ve been sending her out on a non-stop series of crew mission runs. I figure that doing the 12x thing also means that I’m not going to be spending as much time on each planet and could easily outpace slicing node level requirements. I also picked up treasure hunting for when I get more companions, because I’m really going to need those companion gifts to make up for the lack of dialogue encounters that will offer influence points. Plus, it’s pretty amusing to me to send out the crew to bring back gifts that I’m going to be giving right back to them. Like handing a relative a gift card and telling them to go shop for their own birthday gift.

Financing all of those crew missions will be my operative’s task; I’ll get to do a bit of farming here and there. Got her well over a million credits the other night, which is nothing to regulars but was a first for me. Trying to decide how much money I’m going to be sinking into expanding and decking out my stronghold, as it’s been somewhat neglected.

Posted in Music

Soundtrack Thursday: The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

Every now and then I want to splurge on sharing the highlights of a particular soundtrack — and today’s is one of those lesser-known ones that nevertheless deserves some serious attention. The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a straight-up fun and rousing trip, reminding me a bit of Hans Zimmer’s style. My only complaint is that it’s a mere 10 tracks long, but at least pretty much every one of those tracks are eminently listenable! And as a bonus, pretty much all of the track names are groan-worthy puns.

Here are my favorites:

Posted in Marvel Heroes

Marvel Heroes: The Ant-Man cometh

anthillI am deeply grateful that there is no Marvel superhero called Lice-Man (as far as I know) — I wouldn’t be able to stop scratching myself for a week.

I am also completely amazed that an Ant-Man movie actually got made. I mean, Avenger or no, he’s not the most well-known in the public sphere. Plus, “tons of bugs” is rarely a selling point with cinematic audiences (see Joe’s Apartment, et al). I guess it’s a testimony to the powerhouse of the Marvel namebrand these days that they’re able to push something like this out of the door with all seriousness and be rewarded for it. Then again, it wasn’t like Iron Man was on the average person’s lips until the movie took him from B-list to A-list overnight.

So with the Ant-Man movie comes Ant-Man to Marvel Heroes, because how could the studio resist? It’s going to be the last film in a while where a headlining character isn’t already in the game (Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel are upcoming movies, but their characters have long been in MH). Might as well make the most of it.

I’ve been growing in excitement over playing this character, so it was a good day when I finally got to slip into his powered suit and take it out for a test drive. I’m taking him through the new consolidated story mode instead of doing the Midtown/ICP/legendary quest route, just to see how it handles. So far leveling feels on pace, although it’s somewhat more difficult to gear him up.

The combination of flavors is what makes Ant-Man tick. He’s a brawler (I particularly like the skill that sends him ping-ponging between nearby foes to punch their lights out), he’s got gadgets, he can shrink (and grow), and he controls 10,000 ants at a time. Visually, it’s a treat to see him constantly change size and do some pretty wacky things, but for me it’s all about the ants.

I was hoping that his ant mastery would translate into an epic summoner, but I guess Gazillion is full up on summoners right now and decided to take a slightly different tack. While he does get to bring out a slew of ants (nicely animated in moving swarms) on command, they’re more there as a resource to be used up in special attacks than a constant moving DoT (aka Squirrel Girl’s army). The attacks are pretty neat, tho; I like the giant fist of ants that bursts out of the ground to deal damage to a cluster of enemies.

What I’ve ended up using a lot more than ants, even, is his blaster cone attack. It looks pretty cool and attacks in a nice wide swath in front of him.

While there’s a sense of novelty and some potential here, Ant-Man’s getting really mixed reviews on the forums, with many saying that he is underpowered and doesn’t have any good builds available yet. I’m still trying to figure out a rotation and what skills work best, but I will lend my voices to those who think that the ant mechanic needs some reworking.

I need a lot more time with Ant-Man before coming to any sort of judgment on him, but I will say that he’s a hero that doesn’t stand still for long. Lots of movement and size adjustment, all while using ants to control the battlefield. Could be something. I sure hope so, because I’m fairly invested at this point.

Posted in Music, Podcast, Star Wars: The Old Republic

Battle Bards Episode 55: Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtorposterA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, three Battle Bards decided to give Star Wars: The Old Republic its own show (finally). While we’ve talked about SWTOR many times before on the podcast, this week we’ll go full-on space opera with our look into what made this soundtrack both memorable and maddening!

Episode 55 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Star Wars Main Theme” and “Peace, the Jedi Consular”)
  • “Main Theme (Clash of Destiny)”
  • “Shapa Keesay (Shape-Shifter)”
  • “Romance”
  • “Tatooine, the Desert Sands”
  • “The Occupation of Balmorra”
  • “Revan’s Theme”
  • “Bravado, the Smuggler”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox: The Witcher 3, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, Dragon Quest X
  • Outro (featuring “Yesterday’s Jawa”)

Listen to episode 55 now!

Posted in WildStar

WildStar: Political satire, stand, or story?

ecoI’ve always assumed that most game studios — like most of Silicon Valley and the entertainment sector — lean pretty heavy to the left politically. Usually it’s not an issue in-game (public statements on Twitter, in interviews, and elsewhere online is different), since I also get the feeling that most MMO devs aren’t out to stir up controversy by touching any sensitive topics as part of the game world and quests. I mean, you’ll always offend somehow, but no need to seek it out by grabbing hold of those political, social, or religious third rails.

I think that’s why MMO storylines and quests are fairly safe — and usually black (the mobs) and white (us). People of most walks of life can settle into gaming and agree to have fun together without dragging in the opinion section of a newspaper.

But once in a while I do see noteworthy quests and storylines that could be construed as a writer or studio pressing an agenda or viewpoint. Oddly enough, I am not opposed to these. I don’t need them all of the time, but I don’t want game designers flinching away from treating MMOs as they would “serious” video games, books, or other forms of literature. The RIFT: Storm Legion storyline that dealt with rape, animal abuse, murder, and willful ignorance of those in power stuck with me because while it was raw, it told an important story and allowed for some small measure of justice to be attained. Or back when an industry figure (I honestly forget who) was calling out a quest in World of Warcraft that had players needlessly torture a captive.

Anyway, the other night when I was playing WildStar I realized that the foes I had been attacking as part of challenges and quests were Aurin — and in fact eco-terrorists called the Thorns of Aboria or something. Considering that I was attacking them on behalf of the corporate Protostar, I found myself amused and curious as to whether any political statement was being made here. Making Captain Planet’s Planeteers the bad guys — even in a very light-hearted, run-of-the-mill sense — made me wonder if this was a sly conservative message, meta satire, or really just fluffy details that shouldn’t demand overthinking.

But at the least I like it when a game makes me notice the details and has me think. If you get past the stylized design and the goofy nature, WildStar is less afraid to weave a myriad of touchier topics into its world without grandstanding on any of them. I get the feeling that if you want to read into them, the devs wouldn’t mind, but they’re just as dismissable if you want to play the game. It’s an interesting approach.